The gender pay gap – again!

And so another story on the gender pay gap. The good news? The gender pay gap has narrowed over the past year and is apparently at an all time low. The bad news? It has only dropped by 1%. Let’s look at the main stats that the ONS has published:

  • Hourly wage rates have increased for full time female workers by 4% to £13.43
  • Hourly wage rates for full time male workers have increased by only 2.8% but are still higher at £16.07
  • Gender pay gap is in favour of women working part time who earn an average of £156 a week as opposed to £144 for men
  • Pay gap is now 16.4%
  • Public sector pay increased by 3% compared to 1% in private sector

Despite the fact that I know there is definitely a gender pay gap, I am always a little skeptical about the accuracy when looking at these figures – because I wonder if they compare like for like. For example – do they compare salaries of a male computer programmer with their female equivalent? Or do they compare a CEO with a receptionist?

However when reading this article I noticed the point that was raised by Harriet Harman, who is quoted as saying “Most women work part-time because they juggle the important work of looking after children and older relatives. That’s where the discrimination really bites.” The article then states: “The TUC calculates that there is a part-time gender pay gap of 35.2%, based on comparing the hourly earnings of men working full-time (£16.07) with women working part-time (£10.40).”

I thought this was really insightful . Yes a lot of women are getting paid less because they work less hours and yes the gender pay gap here is positive. But there is an inherent problem with this setup –the fact is that the corporate world makes it difficult for many women with family responsibilities to return to work, leading them to part time roles which pay them substantially less than they’d get if they returned to work full time. Once again it links back to the same issues: maternity and paternity leave and more support in the workplace. But as Harriet Harman says herself, the Equality Bill will help women progress even further. Let’s hope she’s right.

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Why employ a woman?

This probably isn’t the type of question that you’d expect the Editor of Vogue – a woman that employs a 90% female team – to be posing. But it is! This article only appeared online this morning and already has almost 200 comments as it’s an issue that always seems to divide people. The main point of the article seems to be: is all the legislation surrounding maternity designed to help women actually doing more harm than good?

It’s a controversial, but very topical, issue. Author Alexandra Shulman raises some good points and it’s quite a brave article to write – as she observed herself: “It’s barely acceptable to write this piece at all – and probably impossible for a man.” She discusses many issues – women expecting to return to their old jobs but working less hours and employers saying that they can promote younger women to take over the jobs for less money. But her main point is this: let’s not make women so difficult to employ that it actually prevents progress.

We could be heading for trouble, as firms – especially SMEs – might think twice about employing women who could at any time announce that they’re taking a year off. So what can we do to make sure this doesn’t happen? The obvious answer seems to be to extend paternity leave. If both men and women were entitled to the same amount of leave, the prospect of employing a woman would be a lot less risky. But as it stands, women get 52 weeks and men get just 2 – for many employers, it’s a no brainer.

What do you think? Leave your thoughts below!

Mothers Betrayed?

I have to confess to being more than a little disappointed at the views expressed by Nichola Pease  in the press recently suggesting that women were ‘wrecking their careers’ by taking their full 12 months maternity leave.  Ms Pease , who a mother of three is deputy chairman of JO Hambro was giving evidence to a treasury select committee investigating sexism in the City.  “Legislation  is turning into a nightmare – I think we have got too long maternity leave – a year is too long!”  She also felt that the practice in Norway, where businesses are required by law to give 40% of their board positions to women, are flawed.

What really disappoints me is the implied view that the legislation we have in place is there in some way to pander to the fact that women have children.  What about the business case for harnessing and retaining the skills that so many women have in the workplace?  And what about the hard evidence?  US research has shown that Fortune 500 companies with the highest proportion of female directors are more profitable and efficient than those with the lowest. And according to research by McKinsey, the strategy consultancy, European organisations with the highest proportion of women in influential leadership roles, showed better than average financial performance.

Perhaps Ms Pease ought to take a look! 

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Prepare for your career break

Read my advice in the Times today on preparing for your career break: http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/management/article6835763.ece

Some good points to think about for women going on maternity leave, or anyone that’s taking some time out from work.

More paternity leave in store?

Could this be the step forward that we need?

The FT reported this morning that the government has backed more flexible parental leave, allowing women who return to work after six months to transfer the remaining maternity leave to their partners. This means instead of the mere two weeks leave that men are now entitled to, they will instead be able to take up to six months – three paid and another three unpaid. This would also apply to gay couples.

This is somewhat of a breakthrough. At W-Tech, one member of the audience came out with a statement and her shock and frank words summed up the current situation. She said: “I’ve been living in Sweden since 2003 – how much time do guys here get for paternity leave? Is it two weeks or something? In Sweden a guy can take up to one and a half years – there’s no discussion about who’s at home with the kids, you both are.”

This seems like a major step forward in the battle for equality – but as always, the war is not yet won. Many businesses are not happy about the changes due to the ‘administrative nightmare’ that it could cause them. And there is still speculation as to how many men would take advantage of the leave. But regardless, this news is definitely a step in the right direction and gives some very real hope for the future.

What do you think? Will we move towards a world where men and women will share the family responsibilities? Or will the women that reach the top continue to be the ones who have made the big sacrifices? Would you be happy to give some of your leave to your partner? Or are the gender roles that we’re in now just so long established that this move just isn’t enough?

Time to leave the City?

There have been some pretty disappointing statistics in the press over the past week when it comes to equality and the gender pay gap – especially in the finance sector. A report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission found that women with full time roles in the City earn 55% less than their male counterparts – that’s almost double the 28% gender pay gap for the UK in general. Not only that, when it came to bonuses, the report found that men within finance received five times the performance related pay of women, taking home over £14,000 compared to under £3000 for females.

It is obviously unacceptable to have such discrepancies based on gender. But should we be surprised? It’s general knowledge that there is a gender pay gap, especially in the competitive arena that is the City. The important issue is how we deal with it. A piece in the Telegraph by Tracy Corrigan suggests that women should “give the City a miss”. She says “the disparity of earnings and the working conditions that make it so hard to combine motherhood and career advancement will continue to persuade many to take their skills elsewhere…Rather than trying to fix the City, or struggling to meet its harrowing demands, perhaps it is better to pursue other options.”

She has some valid points – a high flying career in the City is not easy, especially with family responsibilities. But is giving up really the best option? Yes it’s a difficult career, but surely women should have the option of pursuing it without facing huge levels of discrimination, if they want to? And if we tell women to give up, isn’t that effectively showing the City that the current situation is acceptable? This situation isn’t easy to change but if we keep persevering we will hopefully be able to make a difference, slowly but surely.

Maternity fears

Maggie Berry talks about the impact that maternity leave can have on a fast paced technology career:

http://www.vnunet.com/vnunet/news/2244161/pace-causes-maternity-leave