Written by Dotty Winters


Still Minding the Pay Gap

The disparity between what men and women get paid, together with the inconsistency of the statistics pumped out on the subject, prompted Dotty Winters to use her rightful few weeks off (see below) to do some research.

Illustration by Louise Boulter

On November 4, 2014, the UK marked it’s annual Equal Pay Day.

With the current gender pay gap, this date marks the point from which women in effect work for free until the end of the year in comparison to their male colleagues. Save the solar energy in your calculators. I’m here to help.

In 2014, this illustrated a 15.7% pay gap, three days before the same occasion in 2013, which indicated this is a gap which is widening.

Just over a week later the Office for National Statistic (ONS) announced the pay gap has narrowed to 9.4% from last years’ 10% figure.

Meanwhile a number of commentators, including Conservative Woman founder Laura Perrins are fond of exclaiming that there is NO gender pay gap in the UK.

There’s something just not right here isn’t there?

I decided to dust off my google-a-tron, dredge up those long forgotten statistics lessons and see if I could work out what’s actually going on – all in the vague hope that next year I can sit out eight full weeks of enforced festive jollity on the basis that I’m not being paid for that shit.

You are reading this in January, this happened in November, that’s how accomplished I am at statistics, and like all great statisticians, I’d like to start with some caveats:

• We are only talking about the UK pay gap here – in comparison to the majority of the world we are pretty lucky.
• Despite the assertions of some people, I have been unable to find evidence that the pay gap doesn’t exist, or can be wholly explained away by gender differences in job role preferences (for example, the TUC reports the average salary for a man working full time as a solicitor is £53,948 a year and the average for a full-time woman is £43,076 – a pay gap of 20.2 per cent).

The first thing I discovered was the difference between the 9.4% and the 15.7% figures is fairly straight forward; the ONS’s preferred measure is the median pay gap, the 15.7% refers to the mean pay gap. You can read the difference between these measures here. [http://www.vocabulary.com/articles/chooseyourwords/mean-median-average]

Over a long enough period of time these two figures should roughly track the same trend, with the occasional blip.

What is really interesting is that both these figures refer to an hourly wage for full time workers, excluding overtime (I couldn’t find any clarification as to whether it included time spent playing Candy Crush whilst pretending to be busy, so let’s assume both genders are equally guilty of that).

If we are only looking at those who are employed full time, we are missing some other important bits of information:

• Women in the UK are more likely to be unemployed. In 2013 unemployment among women hit a 25-year high. Women are disproportionately likely to work for the public sector, and have been hit hardest by public sector job cuts. Meanwhile Fawcett Society Figures from 2013 report two out of three new private sector jobs are going to men.
• Women are more likely to work part time than men, and hourly wages for comparable jobs are lower for part time workers than for full time equivalents.

Depressingly the ‘motherhood penalty’ still exists. Research from Oxford University found that while men have taken up an increasing amount of responsibility for domestic labour over the past 50 years, women today still undertake two-thirds of unpaid work in the home (not having, or planning to have children doesn’t protect women from this impact).

So, not only are employers penalising women for the implied threat that they may one day use their vaginas, they also penalise men for not having vaginas; let’s call it the Schrodinger’s Vagina Tax.

A disappointing UK legal case in Sept 2014, resulted in Ford Motor Ltd being able to justify paying men the statutory minimum for additional paternity leave, whilst paying enhanced salary to women in maternity pay.
It’s not enough to make the right to take leave more equal between genders; until the payment on leave is equal many families will have to make decisions which factor in this gender inequality, in effect penalising men who wish to be stay-at-home parents.
So, not only are employers penalising women for the implied threat that they may one day use their vaginas, they also penalise men for not having vaginas; let’s call it the Schrodinger’s Vagina Tax. Research published in Management Science in November 2014 shows that this effect is lessened in firms led by women.

A quick search will turn up lots of articles explaining that this pay gap isn’t the result of discrimination, it’s the result of ‘choices’, like this one, [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-business/11042829/Women-gender-pay-gap-want-to-close-the-pay-gap-Its-time-to-face-an-uncomfortable-truth.html] where Sophy Ridge appears to suggest the answer is to not have children, or at least only to have them if you are willing to either accept a future pay cut or return to work within two weeks.

I’ve never thought the fight for equality was about everyone being the same, it should be about equal opportunity to make equivalent choices, and at the moment, some choices are either unavailable or disproportionately costly for women (regardless of their intention to ever procreate).

One response to all these statistics is to acknowledge that we still have work to do in the fight for gender equality. But, if that’s not your bag, here are my top tips on how to make sure you aren’t negatively affected by the gender pay gap:

Be a man
If you can’t be a man, claim not to have a functioning vagina, offer to show them if they seem sceptical, make sure to decorate it with “Out of Order” tape first.
Work for a female boss (not Tulisa, she’s THE female boss)
Work full time.
Don’t show up to work in November and December. Threaten to sue anyone who complains.
Persuade male colleagues to use their additional pay to buy magic beans from you.

Yep, that should show the patriarchy, or we could just do the first thing, and keep raising awareness about pay inequality.

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Written by Dotty Winters

Nascent stand-up, fan of fancy words, purveyor of occasional wrongness, haphazard but enthusiastic parent, science-fan, apprentice-feminist.