MumsnetGuestPosts (MNHQ) Wed 20-Aug-14 12:45:06

Guest post: 'The gender pay gap is still widening - we must act'

Statistics published this week reveal that many women earn three-quarters of what their male colleagues do - for the same job. Grazia magazine have launched a petition calling for an end to the gender pay gap. Here, Editor Jane Bruton argues that demanding transparency from businesses is essential.

Jane Bruton

Editor of Grazia

Posted on: Wed 20-Aug-14 12:45:06

(47 comments )

Lead photo

'We want companies to publish their pay gap'

This week we learnt that female managers earn, on average, only three quarters as much as men – for doing exactly the same job.

The shocking statistics from the Chartered Management Institute show just outrageous the current situation is. Women in management roles will have to retire at 79 to earn the same in their lifetime as equivalent male colleagues.

Too many people think: ‘this is just a hangover from the days when we couldn't get our own credit cards, or even vote – it'll sort itself out over time’. But it won't. In a society that is increasingly embracing feminism, the pay gap isn't getting better – it's getting worse. New figures from the Office of National Statistics show that unless things change, the gender divide will last at least another 60 years. We can't wait that long.

And – obviously – it's about motherhood. The data shows that women begin to really fall behind at the age when they are most likely to be starting a family. It gets steadily worse from then on.

In a society that is increasingly embracing feminism, the pay gap isn't getting better – it's getting worse. New figures from the ONS show that unless things change, the gender divide will last at least another 60 years. We can't wait that long.


Mark Crail, of pay specialists XpertHR, which helped with the study, said: "It appears that employers often give up on women in mid-career, and are missing out on a huge pool of untapped knowledge, experience and talent." Clearly, too many employers just can't comprehend how a person can be a parent and a conscientious, ambitious worker – unless, of course, they're a man. How silly of us to believe that in 2014, we'd be judged on our performance at work rather than our gender.

Here's another depressing statistic: from the 4th November each year, women are essentially working for free. So, are you entirely happy with your earnings? Is it okay with you that women take home an average £1million less than their male counterparts over their working lives? No? Didn't think so.

We're not too happy about it either – and we have just three weeks left to do something about it. We have launched our Mind the Pay Gap campaign to try and get 100,000 signatures on our petition by September 10. If we do, the Government has to take action on this issue. But we need your help to do that.

Not a day goes by when I'm not asked to sign some petition or other. I know what it's like to feel petition fatigue. ‘Oh they’ll get loads of people signing this - they don't need me’, I always think. But we really do.

Our petition calls for transparency about the gender pay divide. We're calling for Section 78 of the Equality Act 2010 – existing legislation brought in by the last Labour government – to be enacted. If it is, then businesses with 250 employees or more would have to publish (completely anonymously) details about the hourly pay of the men and women they employ, exposing any unfair gender gaps.

Please help us make a difference. If we work together on this, we can change things for ourselves, for our daughters and for women like us in the future.

If you'd like to sign the petition, you can find it here.

By Jane Bruton

Twitter: @janeGRAZIA

This is nice and all, but slightly strange coming from Grazia, which is one of the least feminist things out there, isn't it? Or was last time I flipped through a copy in the hairdresser.

Darkesteyes Wed 20-Aug-14 16:36:58

LRD Take a look at this weeks cover. Its got WOW How Kate got THIS body on the front. Accompanied by a picture of the very slim Kate Moss. I think the reason the response to this petition has been so poor is because it seems to exclude the very low paid jobs (eg care work) All that has happened here is the same that happens in general elections. A poor turn out because the people whose vote they want arent being catered for.

Oh, how very depressing. sad

And I take your point about excluding poorly paid jobs. Women are disproportionately reprented in those, of course.

Darkesteyes Wed 20-Aug-14 17:19:10

YY LRD What could/should be included in that petition is to lift the minimum wage (which is what a lot of care workers/supermarket workers are on) to a living wage. Could also have included a part to end zero hour contracts. They have left out a huge part of the population, some of which will be the young women who read Grazia. Its almost as if they dont want to include these jobs because it doesnt affect them, yet perversely they are asking us to sign this petition even if it doesnt affect us because there is a chance that it may. I find this extremely hypocritical. Its not my idea of equality to exclude very low income work. That coupled with the hypocrisy is the reason i wont be adding my signature to the petition.

Its not my idea of equality to exclude very low income work.

Not mine either.

It's a shame that our guest posters so rarely come back and comment on the response to their posts. I'd be interested in Jane's views on our observations about the hypocrisy of claiming to be feminist when much of their magazine is taken up with body shape and expensive fashion.

MNHQ explained on a previous guest post that posters don't usually get notice of exactly when their guest posts will be put up. So she might not actually know it's here yet.

I would be interested too. I did enjoy Grazia when it first started. I like fashion; I thought they had some good writers, and it seemed a bit smarter than a lot of other glossies. But it's truly rubbish feminism.

Plus I always find it confusing - they'll write reasonably intelligent articles, aimed at people who aren't stupid, but they cannot think we don't see through those cringey 'New August Issue - Is Kate too Fat?!'/ 'September: Kate's Anorexia Horror. Friends worry for skeletal star'* shilly-shallying.

* Quotations made up. Like I say, I don't buy it. The spirit is, however, accurate.

Blondieminx Wed 20-Aug-14 20:42:22

The shilly shallying is why I cancelled my subscription. That and the atrocious reporting of what Nigella went through.

I completely agree with DarkestEyes and I won't be signing either.

Oneeyedbloke Wed 20-Aug-14 22:51:02

I have a slight quibble with how gender pay inequality is reported. A lot of men - and it's surely mainly men who control this - think, 'Oh, that can't be right, it's against the law to pay women less than men for the same job these days.' They then buttress that general line of thought by using a particular example, something like: 'Take Jane for instance, she does the same job as I do, she's on Band 6 (or whatever) same as me, there's no way the management could get away with paying her £25k when I get £28k.' And in this way they sort of sweep the whole issue under their mental carpet. That's certainly the way this bloke used to think about it.

So, imho campaigners need to be more specific about the exact ways women get paid less - through not rising through pay grades as quickly as men; through losing money when on maternity leave; through having to work part-time because of caring responsibilities, etc. Spell it out, because there are a lot of men out there who are potential allies in the pay equality battle but who don't understand/believe what they're hearing.

Statistics like 'Women take home £1m less than men over their working lives' can be accounted for in many, seemingly legitimate ways - that's how blokes' minds work. Let's hear the detail of individual women's lives, and the pay injustices they suffer. For example, my misogynistic boss is happy to let employees, male or female, go part-time when they ask for it - but he won't ever let them increase their hours again. He tells them there isn't the work - but then hires other full-time workers. This discriminates against women because they're mainly the ones asking to go part-time in the first place, and results in them losing thousands compared to their male colleagues.

YY, precisely.

It's no good to focus on specific, relatively well-paid examples. We need to look at the whole structure of why female-dominated jobs are undervalued and why women end up disproportionately represented in low paying jobs. And we need people to recognize that women going part-time, or giving up jobs, or taking low-paid work that fits around caring/bringing up children, isn't simply a 'choice' but a response to a restrictive social structure.

I will say, this isn't just how 'blokes' mind work' - it's a common opinion from women too.

Darkesteyes Wed 20-Aug-14 23:21:55

Totally agree LRD. The figure for the amount of women on zero hour contracts has skyrocketed in recent years.

And these will be the ones who are having to use food banks.
There is also still the default attitude and opinion that the childcare fees should come out of the womans wage.

Roonerspism Thu 21-Aug-14 03:09:56

As someone directly affected by this - crappy salary increases since having kids and going part time - it is not easy to fix.

As long as women are the primary care givers, and rely on hideously expensive nurseries/utterly inadequate wrap around school care (I'm in scotland btw), it won't improve.

I am unable to do the same hours as my male counterparts. I'm given lower quality work. I'm given far poorer pay rises and it is justified every time in the fact I am less flexible. To an extent, I can see my employer's point.

sausageeggbacon11 Thu 21-Aug-14 08:49:15

The glass ceiling is not the problem there only a few who will ever be affected. Those of us on low wages either by choice for the flexibility or because there are no options are trapped and not able to progress because we are seen as the bottom of the labour pool. When big companies start to do more to help a massive part of the workforce back to work with out the hideous punishments we currently have then things will change.

Men's rights will be represented at general election time next year with a broad brush stroke policy for what they want to see. The feminist boards discussed a feminism party which I was against in general as I see the policy being more towards the top end down rather than what we need is a push from the bottom up to allow stifled talent to grow. If a women's party focused on the issues that many suffer and don't try to alienate men just because they can then I would be interested.

I used to love Gracia but they are busy promoting diets and image issues so not good for them as far as I am concerned.

Dolly80 Thu 21-Aug-14 09:02:14

When I read the guest post my thoughts echoed those already on the thread.

Woman make up the majority of the workforce in several low paid and undervalued careers (where zero hours contracts and bank work are the norm). Of the top of my head - carework, childcare, retail, support roles in schools and medical establishments...the list goes on. I'd be more interested in signing a petition about this imbalance.

I concede there is a wage gap at management level but, in comparison with a nursery nurse in London who may be earning 12-14k a year for a 40hr week, I wouldn't consider it the priority area to focus on.

Shenanagins Thu 21-Aug-14 09:16:59

The reasons behind the pay gap are far more complex than the article suggests and merely by publishing pay gap data will not do that much to address this.

The article makes reference to the pay gap widening at the time many women take a break to start their families, typically in their 30's, this fact is supported by data published by the Office for National Statistics.

However, we need to delve a bit more into why this happens as it is unfair to some employers to suggest that they simply write off women's contribution once they have children, in my experience this is simply not true.

One of the hard truths and one that us females don't like to admit to is that we are part of the problem.

Once we have children, we are typically less likely to apply for more senior roles, ie the ones which pay more as we are concerned about the impact would have on our family lives, a concern that men typically don't have.

The simple fact is that unless women pursue these higher paid roles then there will always be a substantial headline pay gap.

The headline pay gap figure is also misleading as it could point to an issue that is outwith a company's control - that women are not applying for the higher paid senior roles.

To put it simply, the headline pay gap figure compares the average male salary to the average female salary. If the compay has more males in senior roles because females don't apply for them, then their average salary will be higher than the females.

A couple of other things to consider is that females are typically less likely to ask for a pay rise and have overall lower salary expectations.

A transparent pay structure will not solve any of these issues but we females need to consider why we typically don't apply for more senior roles and address this rather than point to unfair pay practices.

If you asked me if the glass ceiling is a feminist issue, I'd say yes.

If you asked me what issues a feminist party should focus on, I wouldn't say that the glass ceiling* should be one of the top 5.

I'd also point out that there are at least two interpretations of why a glass ceiling / unequal pay is a problem. The first is selfish in nature: why shouldn't women want the same pay and opportunities as anyone else: I don't want extra barriers because I have breasts. This reason is low on the priority list really.

The second is by far more important: that currently, women are under-represented in positions of power because of the glass ceiling and social structures around gender roles and this is a barrier to equality in itself, as well as a consequence of inequality. And because of assumptions around women's work that lead to low pay, many women are trapped in a cycle of poverty and dependence. So, it matters in this sense.

I'd like to see a feminist party that honed in on the issues faced by the most vulnerable women: young women in care, asylum seekers, sex workers, women in deprived areas, women living in abusive situations. And yes, carers, those on zero hours contracts and minimum wage. As well as the feminisation of poverty as outlined above.

*as interpreted by you as self-centred professional women wanting their 50k + salaries topped up.

A transparent pay structure will not solve any of these issues but we females need to consider why we typically don't apply for more senior roles and address this rather than point to unfair pay practices

Yes, but…

Have you looked at studies on how male and female behaviour is interpreted differently at work? Men are assertive, women bitches etc. And how male and female achievements are judged differently, by different criteria. Cordelia Fine's work highlights this well.

So maybe we don't put ourselves forward as confidently as we could, but there may be reasons for that state of affairs that go beyond a simple "buck up ladies".

Shenanagins Thu 21-Aug-14 09:50:30

buffy on your point about women going into typically lower paid jobs i would argue that this is a kind of glass ceiling, why is it typically women who do these jobs in the first place?

in relation to your second point, women are part of the problem in relation to not going for more senior roles but this isn't the only reason as you rightly stated.

i would love to discuss this further but now on my phone and about to go out.

But shen, is this women's 'fault' for going into these jobs - as individuals?

Or is it a wider social issue? I tend to think the latter, because there is a lot of pressure on women to 'scale back' after having babies, not to mention discrimination.

There are so many threads on MN where someone will post saying they 'can't afford' to go back to work as 'they' can't cover childcare - as if it's automatically their financial responsibility. I've even seen people posting that they needed to 'save' money for their maternity leave as their partner would expect the same level of shared contribution to the family finances as before the birth.

With attitudes like these, it's not very surprising that lots of women feel inclined to take lower paid jobs and I don't feel comfortable saying it is their 'fault'.

The bottom line is, somebody has to take care of children. That could be mum or dad, or grandad, or a childminder - but chances are, it's mum or a (female) childminder.

hereistand Thu 21-Aug-14 13:29:59

I am inclined to agree with Shenanigans. I am reading a book called 'Why women don't ask' by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever and it researches the gender pay gap from a point of view that women on their first interview after leaving college settle for what they're offered. If we continue and actively encourage our children to take this route, how can we ever lessen that gap. Most of the men I've asked think that asking for more and believing in their self worth is obvious for success. They cannot believe that many women don't do the same. Do we have ourselves to blame? I don't necessarily believe that's the case but I also don't believe we help ourselves as much as we could do.
I'm a working Mum and it's taken me until aged 32 to believe in my self worth and I'm now more than happy to negotiate what I want from life, work and more.
This doesn't suit everyone so there is the argument of equality to help those that won't shout up, but perhaps that's just acknowledging that we are not all the same and the world would be a strange place if we were.

Darkesteyes Thu 21-Aug-14 13:41:10

LRD i totally agree. Ive seen and read exactly the same threads as you have.
Many men seem to have interpreted shared financial contribution as 50/50 instead of contributions towards the household pot divided in proportion with earnings. And that is before children as well as after. There was a recent thread where a man was expecting his partner and children to live on £60 .

There are varying degrees of financial abuse and these need to be tackled. Statistics show that one in five women in their mid forties dont have children. By 2018 (when i will be 45) it is expected to rise to one in four. Some through choice ,some through circumstance. (Gaby Hinsliff discussed this in Grazia last week)

I cant help wondering if some of these women chose not to have children because of attitudes like the ones discussed in LRDs post at 10.20. I know these ARE some of the reasons i decided to remain childfree.

Darkesteyes Thu 21-Aug-14 13:48:01

A woman on minimum wage working in a care home or working as a childminder or shelf stacking is unlikely to get a pay rise no matter how much negotiation she does.

And SOMEONE has to do these jobs so its no use saying "aim higher" because someone else then has to fill the supermarket job.

And what about workfare. The single mother on JSA is much more likely to be coerced into workfare than her ex who is not paying Child Support. While we have a Government who have many anti women policies, it seems just a little bit victim blamey (for want of a better phrase) to blame it on women for not putting themselves forward. confused

YY, the idea that if you negotiate you do better is quite class-bound. There are plenty of contexts where anyone - male or female - who tried it on would be seen as a troublemaker, or just odd.

It's also an issue that what's considered acceptable negotiating is gendered, even in jobs where negotiating is widely accepted. This piece makes some of these points, though the studies were carried out in the US: www.newyorker.com/science/maria-konnikova/lean-out-the-dangers-for-women-who-negotiate

Blondieminx Thu 21-Aug-14 14:48:09

I am nodding along with you Buffy LRD & Darkesteyes

Someone has to do the caring. If you get a well paid job and pause / go part time while there are young kids / elderly parents to look after IME it is hard to recover from, financially. Bosses see you as firmly on the "mummy track" "not committed" "inflexible". But I know that is a privileged position, and we should be focussing on the women stuck in dead end retail work for minimum wage, on zero hours contracts not knowing if she'll be able to get her kids school shoes next week or whether she'll have to suffer the indignity of the food banks again... sad

The gap in opportunity is key; far more so than a simple comparison of basic salaries.

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