There are currently so many new stories and angles relating to the gender pay gap that I think I’m going to have to use a #PowerofThree approach of my own and just cover three at a time.
So, in the week that the Women’s Equality Party launch a gender pay gap shaped campaign (details and video link below), here are the three (and a bit) main stories on this ever evolving topic which have caught my eye in the global media in the last few days.
Straight in at Number One with a bullet, we have the New York Times reporting that as women take over a male-dominated field, the pay drops, indicating that work, when done by women, is less valued and therefore less well paid. Historically, this may not be new news; I seem to recall that clerical and secretarial work was, in the 1900s, always done by men and was considered of high status – until the First World War brought women out of the home and into offices and hey presto, the “just a secretary” movement was born.
“A striking example is to be found in the field of recreation — working in parks or leading camps — which went from predominantly male to female from 1950 to 2000. Median hourly wages in this field declined 57 percentage points, accounting for the change in the value of the dollar. The job of ticket agent also went from mainly male to female during this period, and wages dropped 43 percentage points. The same thing happened when women in large numbers became designers (wages fell 34 percentage points), housekeepers (wages fell 21 percentage points) and biologists (wages fell 18 percentage points). The reverse was true when a job attracted more men. Computer programming, for instance, used to be a relatively menial role done by women. But when male programmers began to outnumber female ones, the job began paying more and gained prestige.”
Next, we have two areas of the gender pay gap topic covered in the Harvard Business Review, who share the real reason why 30-something women are leaving their employers – and guess what, it’s nothing to do with “family reasons” and everything to do with cold, hard cash. So, where women can vote with their feet and leave the much-lauded talent pipeline for more money elsewhere: they will. And also in the HBR is a feature which indicates that our new (UK) pay gap legislation will also increase employee performance. Pay transparency empowers workers and enhances fairness. “When people know where they stand and know what it will take to move up, they’re more motivated to work to improve both their performance and their standing.”
Finally, the CIPD reports that short men and overweight women appear to suffer from unconscious bias affecting their pay, according to a study from the University of Exeter. The results showed that men who were shorter than the national average and women who were heavier earned about £1,500 less annually than colleagues. It’s suggested that leaders should acknowledge the unconscious bias that leads to this pay discrepancy and work to remedy it. Tam Fry, spokesman for the National Obesity Forum, said: “We have known for a long time that both [quoted forms of discrimination] are truisms. If you are a shorter man, with the same qualifications as a taller man, the tall man will get the job. By the same token, an overweight woman will earn less. It is awful but true.” Fry said he believed employers were acting on unconscious biases, rather than outwardly discriminating: “We are brought up to think that if you are fat you are less than perfect and that it is really tall men who are commanding. It is discrimination and, from an employment point of view, there is no reason for it. If you can do the job, you can do the job, and you should get paid equally.”
(I’ll reference the still-evolving story about gender pay gaps on the tennis court – and the charmless comments made therein – in this week’s end of week round up).
So now to the Women’s Equality Party, who are celebrating March – the first month of the year women actually get paid – with a new campaign and video.
“Forty-five years after the Equal Pay Act, women still earn 20% less than men. This means that, in effect, women have to work until March before they start getting paid for the jobs that they do. Women earn less per hour, less per job and less overall. This is not only hugely unfair on half of the population, but it also has a detrimental effect on the country as a whole. If we unleashed the potential of women, the economy could grow by an extra £180 billion. That’s £2,850 for each and every one of us. If you want a party for equal pay, support the Women’s Equality Party.”
What I find absolutely staggering about the gender pay gap issue is the chorus of disagreement which it provokes every time it gets mentioned on social media or in an article. The internet is awash with comments like: “Every job that I have worked my female colleagues have earned exactly the same pay as me, so where are these places that pay less for the same work?” and “But there isn’t REALLY a 20% pay gap is there … it’s all just rhetoric and manipulation….”.
So not only are we faced with fighting for parity, we’re also having to challenge people who seemingly haven’t heard of the concept that the plural of anecdote isn’t evidence, who were fortunate enough to ACTUALLY KNOW the full details of their colleagues’ salaries or who are clearly in utter denial as to the validity of the evidence. Do they really think that any Government would have created new legislation to tackle this if the gender pay gap wasn’t a very real, known, documented issue?