If you’re actively involved in gender equality, been reading the news lately, or just take an active interest in your rights as an employee in the UK – you may have seen that the deadline has now passed for companies to share their pay data for male and female employees in UK companies.
You may also have seen the absolute fucking shambles that are so many companies, who continue to fail to breach equality in their own company and how the gender gap still persists.
As the midnight deadline has now passed the results have shown that 78% of companies pay men more than women, 14% pay women more and 8% said they had no gender pay gap at all. Using the BBC tool you can also search companies by name to see the pay gap at your place of work.
I wanted to write a blog post about this today, not because I feel like I have some magic secret to solve the issue, but instead to share what I do know and how I’ve faced this situation in the past:
So- why is there a gap?
Since the figures show that men are by a huge degree paid more than women, we’ve got to ask ourselves why before we can start to solve the problem.
Now, I’m not a qualified gender expert, I’ve not studied this extensively and I am happy to be corrected and educated if I’ve misspoken, but from what I’ve read and learned over the last few years I think it comes down to a few major things:
Women are left behind in the boardroom
Women are seen as less important than men as an ingrained social hierarchy of total bullshit, and seemingly are less likely to be offered the promotions and the higher ranking jobs in the first place.
Historically, women didn’t work and men did. Now that we’re edging into those positions more and more, there’s a glass ceiling to break and a gap to close.
Women don’t push as hard for the promotion
This is a generalization, but I would say that most women I’ve ever met in my life are far less bolshy and confident when it comes to forcing their opinion on people or pushing for the top. (There’s a reason that mansplaining is such a common word these days)
I’m still learning to embrace my inner private-schooled, middle-class, white male because that’s the kind of guy who runs the show when it comes to a career.
Women are left behind due to parental leave
It’s a sad fact but when women have children they often become the primary caregiver, instead of there being the option of shared-parental leave.
Now, I am 100% the kind of person whose main aim in life is to be a mother. I want babies, I want to care for my children and I want to be able to take the time off I need, but I recognise that will probably put me at a career disadvantage.
It’s all frustrating as fuck, and these simple reasons make me feel like in a way, we’ve made hardly any progress at all.
My experience with pay gaps
At my most recent job (that I have literally just left) we are hugely open about the salary that we’re on in our group of friends. There’s no shame in talking money if it isn’t in your contract and during a casual conversation it was realised that myself and another person in that group (both female) were being paid slightly less than the male of the group who was doing the same kind of job and had the same job title.
Now, whether that was an isolated oversight, something circumstantial or a genuine gender decision, I don’t actually know. What I do know is that we sure as hell were not going to let that one slide.
After organizing a meeting with management, explaining the situation and asking for a reason- it was resolved, with it being declared that they ‘hadn’t realised and it had nothing to do with gender.’
But yet, there it was.
Men being paid more than women.
I’m going to write a full post about approaching awkward topics at work, but this situation left me feeling a couple of things.
Firstly, frustrated that it felt like my gender (something I had no control over) was holding me back from doing just as brilliant a job as someone else. It also frustrating to have to have these kinds of conversations.
Secondly, damn proud of actually putting my big girl boots on and making a statement. It’s tough to go to someone and almost accuse them of being sexist, but handling it professionally and with an open-mind made me feel really pleased.
Finally, like I wanted to evoke change. This is why I am active in my feminist education, this is why I call people out when they say stupid sexist shit… and this is why I dumped a guy who told me I was ‘a crazy feminist’. Soz hunny, but if you aren’t on my side then you aren’t any friend of mine.
So- what can we do?
A lot of the actual change obviously can’t come from you or me as individuals, but there are things we can do to nudge companies into paying their staff fairly and equally.
Name and shame
These figures being published is a great step to demonstrating which companies are falling flat and who are succeeding. I know that if my company was listed on there it would severely change my perceptions of them and my workplace culture if I felt like I was being paid less still.
Talk about it and be proactive
This has been happening for far too long now. If you’re in a company where you know there are injustices then take a damn stand. Say something, get the conversation going!
Work on shared parental leave
Women are at a severe disadvantage because quite often paternity leave is much lower than it is for women. Childcare is a parent’s job, not a women’s job. (Thank you to my work pal Sam who said that. I’m very much stealing it, but credit where credit is due!!)
And for me personally? I’m very much still working on being bolder in my decisions to be open with my colleagues about how much I am paid and I’m constantly working towards fighting for equality for my gender. I’m not afraid to speak up and I hope that others will do the same.