A complicated and emotive issue
Hello and welcome to issue 95, the Gender Pay Gap reporting issue. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt about the gender pay gap, it’s that it’s complicated. The other thing I’ve come to learn over time is that it’s an incredibly emotive issue. In my last blog I wrote about the people who believe the Earth is flat. In the same way there are people who deny the existence of the gender pay gap.
The gender pay gap isn’t about getting the same pay for the same work (or work of equal value) – that’s equal pay. The gender pay gap is about women typically ending up in roles where the chances are they will be paid less than men overall.
Explorer or scientist versus mermaid or unicorn handler
Whilst some of us give our sons t-shirts telling them they should be explorers or scientists, some of us give our daughters t-shirts that say they should dream of being mermaids or of owning their own unicorn. Now don’t get me wrong, if it was possible to snag yourself a unicorn it would probably be rather lucrative, so the advice isn’t that terrible per se, but in reality, the explorer or scientist option is probably going to make for a better real-world career choice.
Beyond ‘women’s work’
I’ve written before about the frankly quite dire career advice so people many of my generation received at school, and this wasn’t limited to women – I know lots of men who were given bad advice too – but research from the Young Women’s Trust reported that young women who are Not in Employment, Education or Training are given advice which steers them away from the better paying apprenticeships in areas like engineering and construction towards altogether more traditionally ‘girly’ occupations that are paid less.
There is nothing wrong with going down this route when you’re in possession of all the information but it seems quite unfair to subconsciously (or worse, consciously) rule out girls from the careers that provide better financial rewards, favouring outdated notions of ‘women’s work’.
Not a work of fiction
Some of the people who argue that the gender pay gap isn’t real seem to be living in a real-life version of The Handmaid’s Tale, believing women should not be allowed to work, own property, handle money, or read. In the minds of these people men are allowed to have interchangeable roles between father and worker but women are not meant to aspire to having any sort of sustained career ambition. How dare you want to work part time after you’ve had children but still get paid the same amount per hour, or – shock horror – get promoted when you work hard and you’re good at what you do? (Equally, there’s nothing wrong with stepping out of work either.)
“The gender pay gap isn’t real!” “It’s all about people making different choices!” “Show me the evidence!” (You’d think that a legal requirement to report would be a start for most reasonable people…) There’s also the people who don’t know their terminology and get themselves all worked up by confusing the gender pay gap and equal pay.
Just for reference, I found this interactive graphic from the lovely people at the Office for National Statistics who also report on the gender pay gap. Funnily enough, as they are national experts they know exactly what they’re talking about.
This interactive tool allows you to find out the gender pay gaps and average earnings in a wide range of jobs. It also shows how many women and men work in each occupation.
Who wants to live in a meritocracy anyway?
It’s not just men who argue against the gender pay gap, there’s women too. Even if you deny the validity of a reported gap and you were sceptical as to the value of this information, wouldn’t you even be the tiniest bit curious to see how much effort potential employers put into their individual reports? If you put all the figures to one side, wouldn’t it be even slightly interesting to get a sense of the employers who want to create a meritocracy where hard work is valued and rewarded? Wouldn’t it be nice at the start of your career to be able to take a look at this information in order to help your decision-making process?
If you’re a gender pay gap denier, I’d ask if you had a son and a daughter, would you be happy to know that your daughter would be destined to go through life working harder for less compensation because a cacophony of archaic ideas in society told her that her options were limited?
Most of those who deny a gap exists say this like they know what it’s like to have people tell them can’t do something because of who they are. I’d question that. Michael Kimmel says: “Privilege is invisible to those who have it.” I’ve referred to this quote before and I will no doubt refer to it again.
No gender pay gap = more wealth in the economy = NO BRAINER
More women progressing in the workplace means they get paid better, so that means more wealth in the economy. IT’S A NO BRAINER.
Gender pay gaps are just the start. Other minority groups have gaps too. Those of us who want to live in an equitable society have no issue with tackling this and believe equality is for everyone, so let’s get to work on closing those next. Impossible starts to look possible when we all work together and agree that one rule for the privileged and one for everyone else is no longer acceptable.