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Wednesday, 29 July 2009

The gender pay gap

I'm not sure we should be surprised by the 'shock' announcement today that women earn over 20% less than men. We're not talking equal - or unequal - pay for equal work but the simple fact women do lower paid jobs than men. When I was working only 35% of my grade were women. If you went to the next grade up only 20% were women. But if you looked at lower grades a large majority were women.

Is this caused by lack of family friendly policies? In my particular employer - no very definitely not so. There was part time working, term time working, annual hours working and flexi time not to speak of paid time off for domestic emergencies and maternity leave as well as a raft of opportunities for unpaid leave and career breaks. We did not have a long hours culture either.

So why do women not earn as much as men? In my work women gravitated to certain areas of the organisation - customer service, welfare, HR etc. What were seen as the macho jobs - like the one I had just before I retired went to men in the main. But the macho jobs attract higher grades and consequently more money. By the time I retired I was working in a virtually all male environment and the culture is different. Women are seen as far less likely to be willing and able to do the job. But much of this is a false perception put about consciously or unconsciously by the men doing the job.

The work I did was seen as being results focused with an emphasis on confrontation which put off many women from even thinking about it as a career choice. In actual fact I got excellent results and without any unpleasant confrontations so the job does not have to be done in the same old way. I suspect in many organisations the same perceptions apply to the better paid jobs and as a result women don't apply for them and if they do they seem to be invisible because no one can picture them doing the job.

All the employment tribunals which involve high powered and apparently capable,
confident women complaining about the prevailing laddish culture and the endemic bullying really speaks for itself. If there is only one woman in a male environment there are always going to be these problems - until the culture changes because more women get these jobs which have always gone exclusively to men.

I am more than capable of standing up for myself in most circumstances and I'm not averse to making a scene if that's what it takes but I found the masculine ambiance at work a shade daunting. I was on good terms with all my colleagues but I found the lack of another woman to talk to on a regular basis made me feel isolated at times and I suspect many women in similar situations feel the same - or imagine they would feel the same - which is why they don't consider such jobs.

Just a few thoughts.

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