Battle over wages: the male-female wage gap
- Alison Steed is the editor of the personal finance website for women and families MyMoneyDiva.com. The opinions expressed are her own. Reuters will host a “follow-the-sun” live blog on Monday, March 8, 2010, International Women’s Day. -
Women have often been given a bad deal when it comes to work, whether we like it or not.
That, to me, is encapsulated in the fact that despite there being an Equal Pay Act in place in the UK since 1970, women still earn on average 17 percent less per hour than men for doing the equivalent role in the workplace, according to figures from The Fawcett Society.
Let’s not get confused here. This is not about women working part-time when men are working full time. This is the average gap for men and women working full time.
If you want to talk part-time, no problem – the figures actually get worse. The average woman is being paid 36 per cent less – more than a third – than a man doing the equivalent part-time role. When you get into London, this rises to 45 per cent – almost half, according to The Fawcett Society.
So what is going on here? A number of things really. Experts estimate that 40 per cent of the pay gap is down to old-fashioned discrimination on the part of employers. Add to that the reality that women are still, in many cases, primarily responsible for the role of caring for the family, and it makes it hard to do the extra hours that some men can take for granted.
I’m sure plenty of people will disagree with what I am saying, many will agree – but let’s get one thing clear. This pay gap is still here because of two things: the government is not enforcing pay equality at present, even though we have had 40 years – and governments of a variety of hues – who could easily have sorted it out.
The forthcoming Equality Bill has a variety of items within it that should help, a primary one being that it “Provides for legislation requiring that employers review gender pay differences within their organisations and publish the results”. Whether this ever comes to pass remains to be seen, after all, they have had 40 years to comply with the existing 1970 Act.
The second problem is that, in many ways, we are our own worst enemies as Brits when it comes to employees’ salaries. Many people will happily discuss their sex lives at work, but suddenly become shy when it comes to talking about salaries. Why? Employers are hiding behind this existing taboo – perhaps the last taboo – and getting away with paying women less.
Perhaps the time has come to take action for ourselves, talk to each other about salaries at work and get things out in the open. Only then will we know whether we are being treated fairly. You might be surprised what you find out.
If you get your male colleagues involved, they might be surprised what they find out too.