The gender pay gap. Don’t tell me you haven’t heard of it because it’s literally being talked about every time I turn on the TV, radio or social media. So you’ve heard of it, maybe you’ve tweeted your outrage, maybe you’ve watched the news and shook your head in fury or maybe you’ve just taken it on the chin as another slap in the face to women in the workforce. I’ll hazard a guess you didn’t whoop it up and get too excited about it though because obviously it’s not a good thing.
But have you ever stopped to wonder, in amongst all of the facts and figures, what the gender pay gap means to you? What it will mean to your children when they enter the work force? If anything at all? And why is there this gaping chasm in the first place?!
First up – let’s have a few facts shall we…
The Gender Pay Gap – Five Things I’ve Learnt
- Gender pay gap and Equal pay gap are two different things. “Gender pay gap” = the difference measured between men’s and women’s average salary in an organisation or market. We are talking about the difference between any job at any level – just the mean difference between men and women’s pay in that company, whereas “Equal pay gap” = the difference between men’s and women’s salary who are doing THE SAME JOB. Next time let’s have a report comparing like for like please.
- Almost half the companies listed in The Times Top 50 Employers For Women, are paying their female staff less than the males. Their gender pay gap is significantly higher than the national average. Still, those women are super lucky with their 16 weeks
maternity leaveholiday so what’s to complain about?
- Men make up a much higher percentage of the senior level workforce than women. And none of them go home to do bath and bedtime because that’s a job for women…
- Men are getting much higher bonuses. Y’know, for being kings of the world etc.
- There’s no sector that pays women more than men. Ah that’s because we do it for the love of the job silly. We really are so fulfilled.
Obviously I’m being slightly sarcastic but whether the data is flawed or not, the gender pay gap has opened up an important conversation. The whole structure of the workforce is based on a model from the 1950s that just does not work in this modern society. Whilst surveys are showing women are opting out of the senior level rat-race themselves, what’s not being addressed is the fact that they are doing this because it is nigh on impossible to raise a family and run the race.
Why is it so difficult?
- Because 99% of the time, it’s the women who are doing it all and it’s just too bloody hard. In saying this, I’m not forgetting that there are men out there also doing it all, supporting their wives and getting stuck in but it is a FACT that the majority of the childcare / running of the home / picking up when sick from nursery-ing is down to the woman…
- Because there is a systemic gender bias running through companies, making it nigh on impossible for women to compete against the men who have wives at home raising the babies ie – “she’s got two kids under the age of six so she won’t want to be considered for a demanding promotion that requires international travel”.
What needs to change?
- Men who can, need to pick up the shared parental leave gauntlet.
- Employers need to realise the benefit of allowing parents (not just mothers) to work flexibly around their families where possible.
- There needs to be a great deal more strength in us as women to fight for change and lay down the path for our daughters to climb one day.
If you are lucky enough to work for a flexible employer, be making great inroads in your career and balancing your family life then it might be tempting to scoff at this gender pay gap issue as nothing more than another feminist plight designed to cause trouble and victimise women.
But please believe me when I say that this report is only highlighting a massive problem. I have lost count of the number of women who I’ve spoken to who feel like they are at breaking point with their work / life balance, the guilt of doing both roles “badly”, the lack of support from employers and the lack of support at home. All the while, their husbands are working whatever hours they need to to get things done and reaping the rewards on each rung of the career ladder.
If we don’t challenge the system, if we don’t show our children how to parent equally and share responsibility and if we don’t make the difficult inroads at work now then nothing about this archaic working structure will change and we will be consoling our daughters in 20 years time when they too opt-out of the career they worked hard to have.
Anyway that’s my two pence for what it’s worth.
I’d love to hear your stories about this issue if you’d like to share them in the comments.