Thursday, August 23, 2012

Lies, Damn Lies and the Gender Pay Gap

Popularised by author Mark Twain who attributed t to British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, the quote Lies, Damned Lies and statistics has never been more appropriate than when applied to the issue of the Gender Pay Gap as I will demonstrate in this article. But first this EU video is really excellent at highlighting the issue of gender inequality and the gender pay gap.

The definition of the gender pay gap statistic is the percentage by which the average hourly pay for women in full time employment is lower than the average hourly rate of pay for men in full time employment and for Europe generally that figure is 17%.  UK statistics show a lower figure 14.9% - those are across the board.

However term average means that about half the population are doing better than that and half are worse. Once we start to unravel the4 statistics we find a number of very disturbing facts. Some employment sectors like health and financial services are a lot worse.  In Financial services the gender pay gap is a staggering 55% - but even that figure has been massaged to make the problem seem better than it really is.

This statistic tells us that on average women working full time earn £450 for every £1000 earned by a man.  So in order to equalise pay we need to increase women's pay.  If we increased average pay for women by 100% ie another £450 in my example that would be £900 - still not equal to men.

In fact the hidden statistic is that in the financial services industry men in full time employment earn on average 122% more than women in full time employment. And this all gets a lot worse when you look at part time earnings where the gender pay gap is higher and is made worse by the fact that 78% of part time workers are woman.

So why after more than 40 years do we still have such an insurmountable problem with gender equality. I came across a very male oriented site today that might give a clue - unfortunately I have seen many of the same views expressed.
the 22-cent “pay gap” is neither a result of gender bias nor workplace discrimination. It can be explained entirely by the fact that women as a group tend to make certain very logical and legitimateemployment-related choices which, while affording them a number of benefits that they value highly, tend to suppress incomes Male Matters USA
Women earn less because they choose work more suited to women which pays less. In fact women are socialised into expecting to work in female suitable work and to make caring and reproduction important. Check out this video and see how embedded gender roles become in our children

The choices we make are not made entirely free from bias. More importantly the recruiters are already biased in the same way and that unconscious bias means that women are encouraged away from higher paid jobs. If a man works long hours he is applauded, where a woman will be criticised. If a woman negotiates hard and is money orientated she will be viewed as unfriendly and selfish - where a man is considered dynamic and successful. 

It is very difficult for a man to see and understand that unconscious bias and hidden prejudice- I could not see it as a man - but when you are subjected to it that is a different story, especially when you lose the natural privileges granted to men. 

Imagine a world where most women did, as most men apparently do, seek work primarily for the purpose of accumulating wealth or refused to work in low paid industries like health care and education, or chose not to have children or handed them over to low paid child carers. The problem is that women are good at caring, and enjoy caring and without that function our society would be much poorer.  Unfortunately we don't value the work we expect women to do and until we change our values we will continue to have gender inequality.

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