Damn the pay gap!

Did you manage to spot the  ISF research that came out yesterday? If you missed it, here’s the summary… there is still a pay gap, which ‘booms’ after a woman has children. *sigh

I think when we see research like this, it’s so easy to jump straight for the jugular, get our knickers in a twist and proclaim loudly about how unfair the world is. Don’t get me wrong I’m 100% there with you; I am a woman, I work in the financial industry, sexism is alive and well here I can well assure you. I remember one particularly aggravating conversation with the father of boy at university wanting to get a job and after spending ages on the phone giving him some advice to pass on to his son who was clearly far too busy and important to actually call someone for their own advice and was told ‘gosh well done you’ at the end of the call, which made me want to tear my ears off my head! But for the purpose of this research I think a rational approach is required and some so what can we do about it. So let’s start from the top.

What does the research actually show?

  • The pay gap has reduced but it’s still 18% (from 28% in 1993)
  • The gap has reduced due to more women becoming highly educated; the decline is only amongst the lower-educated
  • The ‘boom’ in the pay gap continues for 12 years after the birth of a first child
  • Women who have children are paid 33% less per hour than their male counterparts in the same position after an initial period where the salaries are the same
  • Women tend to come back into work part-time after the birth of their first child
    • Women don’t actually see a pay cut on their hourly rate if they reduce their hours when they initially come back
    • Where women lose out is in any subsequent pay rises or promotions (if they work 20 hours or less a week)
  • CMI’s report shows that in the last year 14% of men in management roles were promoted to higher positions compared to 10% of women
    • 73% of the workforce at entry level or junior level roles are women
    • 42% at senior management level
    • 32% at Director level
  • XpertHR commented “The gender pay gap is not primarily about men and women being paid differently for doing the same job. It’s much more about men being present in greater numbers than women the higher up the organisation you go”.

Well as you can see there are progressions. The gap is closing, although only 10% in the last 23 years and actually only in those who are lower-educated. But hey, it’s something right? *cough,cough

What aren’t we seeing here?

I have attended a lot of diversity seminars and events and one of the greatest frustrations for women in the workplace who have responsibilities/commitments outside of work is that they are left out when it comes to networking. Networking is the thing that gets you noticed and still happens a lot outside of work in a bar, on the golf course and over boozy lunches; which, if you’re someone who doesn’t need to get home at 5pm then that is great, but if you are and you trying to juggle parenting or caring responsibilities you get left out. Women are great at getting the job done and I think rely on this to get them ahead, whereas men are more pushy and abrasive so are more visible in the workplace, which gets them ahead of their women counterparts.

I feel like I’m pigeon holing here and I don’t mean to – but I’m going to talk about what I believe usually happens in the workplace, of course there are exceptions to this. I am also only talking here about women who have had children, there is of course so much more to say on this topic.

So what’s the response?

The experts

Gender equality in the workplace, actually just in life in general has been a hotly disputed conversation for the last few years. Former Prime Minister David Cameron made a vow recently to reduce the pay gap and new government rules are coming in April 2017 that will force bigger employers to publish the pay gap, which is an excellent start. But research like this shows that there is still an issue. So what are the experts saying?

Sam Smethers CEO of Fawcett campaign group has a point says, ‘“We are wasting women’s skills and experience because of the way we choose to structure our labour market…Part-time workers can be the most productive, yet reduced hours working becomes a career cul-de-sac for women from which they can’t recover.”

Argued by Mark Littlewood, Director General of thinktank Institute of Economic Affairs who says “If anything, the IFS has provided us with more evidence that the wage gap has nothing to do with gender discrimination. As the study itself notes, women who take time off work and return doing fewer hours are not getting paid less per hour.”

CMI’s Chief Executive Ann Francke says that by publishing company’s pay gaps should force employers to analyse any discrepancies in the salaries of male and female employees. “Promoting men ahead of women is keeping us all back,” she said. “Diversity delivers better financial results, better culture and better decision making.

What should our response be?

Personally my response is a general groan of frustration. Comments from Mark like the one above are so defensive – yes women do come back and do reduced hours, yes initially they are paid the same. But after that initial period – that stops! Why is that?

It’s frustrating for women, because we tend to be (not always!) the carers – whether it’s parents, children, spouses and usually (I’m saying usually!) women tend to have to do the juggling. It seems frustrating that when we want to juggle our responsibilities and jobs we aren’t always supported with that. Because I don’t know about you (I work 4 days a week in a company) but I work the 5 days a week in those 4 days to make sure the work gets done!

However, I can also see the other side of that coin – if a guy is in a similar/same role as said woman, and he’s in the office delivering more than his colleague who is in the office less and isn’t delivering the same as him, then yes, absolutely he should be rewarded for that. I do not, and I have said this before – that we should be given roles or given allowances just because of our sex. But I wonder what’s going on behind the scenes.

So yes, I do think that the gender pay-gap should be published, because I have no doubt in my mind at all that sexism is still alive and well in the workplace. However, what is this being benchmarked against? Is it quality of work, outcomes and deliverables? Because if it’s just time spent in the office then that’s crazy – I know a lot of people who come into the office 5 days a week and do sweet fa, compared to those of us who work 4 or less days a week and complete all we have to in that time. Or is it just how much you are seen to be in the office or being in someone’s face. Because if that’s the case then there needs to be opportunities for women too who do need to leave at 5 or aren’t in 5 days a week.

I also think there needs to be more advice given to women about how to get back on top once they are coming back to work – coaching and support. I think also there is a role for coaches and companies to help women to see how their career can progress – there is a fab article in The Guardian which makes such a valid point – there are a ton of women who are in successful roles past the age of 35, if you aren’t the head of a company having popped out your 3 kids then you aren’t a failure. There is plenty of life in your yet, don’t give up!

What do you think about it? Contact me for your points of view, I’m so interested.

If you are a woman who has had children and you are looking for support getting back into the work place then I would love to help you. Please get in touch today and quote #whatpaygap to me and I will give you a discount!

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