**Since writing this the person who made the comment has since contacted me to let me know that they didn’t write it in direct response to my blog – 100 Years is Too Long to wait for pay equality. But more of a general overview of the way the gender pay gap is reported. However I still think the points I’ve made below are vital to the gender pay debate.
After my recent blog post on the gender pay gap and the Equality Bill I received the following message posted on my Facebook wall. They made some interesting points which I’d like to share and respond to.
“I’m sure this will be taken the wrong way and I am not denying the pay gap, but before we (especially men, as we’ve been so cordially invited) jump on this bandwagon of righteousness, it’s important to interpret statistics on the gap properly. I’ve seen so many flawed statements on this subject; statistics being sensationalised or manipulated for an agenda and that is not how it should be. This is a direct quote from the Office of National Statistics:
“The gender pay gap compares the average hourly earnings of men and women without taking into account such things as the proportions in different occupations and their length of time in jobs. Therefore it does not directly compare the salaries of men and women doing identical jobs.”
It is clearly stated, their studies do not directly compare the salaries of men and women doing identical jobs, yet you will be told time and time again that they do – to me, that is misinformation and misleading people for your own cause. If you’re using those stats to peddle that argument you need to have a real think about whether you’re really focused on equality, or whether you’re pushing your agenda at the expense of your ethics. Again, I am NOT saying there is no pay gap, or that it’s not important, but people need to understand there are a lot of variables outside of the statistics that need to be discussed, as opposed to constantly pushing this “social problem” that may not even exist, and forcing yet another knee-jerk levy on the men in this country who have literally no voice.”
I will answer in two parts, firstly let’s talk about the ‘misleading’ Government statistics and then I’ll move on to the social side of things.
You are absolutely right regarding the way the stats are gathered when it is stated that women effectively stopping working on 4th November and the 81p to the £1 is in relation to average hourly salaries. I did state this in the original blog you’re responding to but I absolutely agree with you that this needs to be really clear. The article was written to highlight the recent vote in parliament to put forward a bill to implement complete pay transparency in large companies. In the link you have given above, you will see the Think, Act, Report voluntary scheme explained which is currently in action. This was implemented by the coalition government instead of the transparency part of the Equality Bill that parliament is currently voting on. This was to avoid forcing companies into publishing their salary statistics, but unfortunately this hasn’t worked. 260 large companies signed up to this scheme (which is great) but less than 10 have actually published their findings (not so great), therefore the statistics that ONS could publish could only be based on national averages.
The new bill, as part of implementing the Equality Act, will mean that we will be able to get some rock solid statistics that will take us to the next level of analysing why there is a gender pay gap. It is frustrating that it has taken this long, but also exciting that ONS might next year have some new statistics for us. Pay transparency is good for men too, it will an opportunity for pay to be assessed for certain jobs that aren’t often scrutinised in that way and give more equality to everyone.
As you’ve read this far, here is a NOT SO FUN FACT: During the Sony email hack earlier this month we found out that the female stars of the blockbuster American Hustle were actually paid less than the men. Even though they are just as big stars and had either the same amount or more screen time than their male counterparts. Read the full story here.
Now to the social problem. To me the gender pay gap is a symptom of a society that is still struggling to get away from the idea of gendered careers. The kind of jobs that society (generally) sees as ‘women’s work’ (e.g. Secretary, Nurse, Cleaner) are paid a lot less than the fields which are typically taken up by men (e.g. Surgeon, Politian, Pilot). In a capitalist community money is king, when you pay work we see as most suitable for women less, it tell us it’s less valuable. But let’s be clear the system of patriarchy is the dominance of a few powerful men, not of the masses. We have to ask ourselves in who’s interests do those with power exercise it? Why would this part of the Equality Act bill not have been implemented until now?
Let’s take the case of the Asda workers legal action for legal pay this year, you can view the full story here. Generally the women work on the shop floor and the men in the warehouse. Both jobs are categorised as unskilled labour but one is rewarded higher. This is the same type of lawsuit Dagenham women fought for all those years ago.
Then there is also the case of Birmingham City Council workers in the autumn of 2012. The jobs seen as traditionally male dominated were paid a basic salary with valuable additional bonuses. The jobs seen as traditionally female dominated were only paid the basic salary with no offer of bonuses. It’s worth pointing out that there were some men who were subject to this injustice so this is a good example of how this can be a positive for both men and women. Read the full story here.
Businesses are the real winner’s with gender inequality. They are able to avoid paying a large chunk of their staff fairly and by giving pay benefits to those in traditionally male dominated job roles they are able to pacify those people who would typically be seen as ‘breadwinners’.
From childhood we are fed ideas of what our gender should be but it is never as simple as being male, female or transgender. Ending the gender pay gap can give us the autonomy to be able to make our own decisions on what we want to be. Men will not be pressured to take on typically male roles as they pay more. If they do happen to be the bread winner of the family, it will make it easier for women to take on ‘men’s work’ as gendered pay won’t come into play.
Finally, the thing that struck me most about your message was the line “forcing yet another knee-jerk levy on the men in this country who have literally no voice.” I was somewhat taken aback by this. If a company has a law suit because they are breaking the Equality Act then surely we are taking a step further to equality? Paying someone less or more solely because of their gender is wrong. I don’t believe implementing this will silence men and personally, that has never been the aim of anything I have written, said or done. To take our conversation further we need the transparency of this bill to give everyone an equal voice in this conversation. This doesn’t need to be an embittered debate, as I mentioned before patriarchy doesn’t serve all men but just a powerful few at the top who reap the financial rewards by pitting us against each other. The men who you describe as ‘literally having no voice’ I’d like to hear from. No one should feel as though they have no voice.
If by trying to highlight this issue as an important one I’ve caused a stir then maybe that’s a good thing. Conversation and debate are after all the cornerstones of democracy. Perhaps we agree on more than you think we do.
Here is a bit of comedy about the gender pay gap in the US that might cheer us all up a bit after all that: