The Gender Pay gap: con or conviction?

With the Gender pay gap reporting deadline looming for many organisations in the UK, I got to thinking today with International Women’s Day around the corner about the importance of gender fairness in organisations and society as a whole. British society is formed in such a way that there are inherent gender norms, stereotypes and bias aimed at women. Having spent most of my adult life in England, I can attest to my observations of this fact.

Let’s break it down into bite size chunks for you:

  • Most organisations operate a 9-5 working day, this is inherently biased predominantly against women who have young children.
  • The government puts laws in place ostensibly to protect women but by their very definition it emphasises the fact that society is unconsciously and consciously operating with a gender bias against women.
  • There are laws to protect women when they are pregnant and on maternity leave; there are laws that guarantee women a minimum amount of time off for maternity leave. Conversely the law for men is pathetic in the extreme. Why is this? Because men are seen as breadwinners and not carers of children, this is woman’s role.
  • There are also laws to prevent unfavourable treatment of part time workers the majority of who again are women!
  • Career average pension schemes which replaced many final salary scheme also disadvantage women because women are more likely to take time off work to have children or care for dependants and are also more likely to work part time to take care of their childcare or other caring responsibilities
  • Something as simple as station car parks discriminate against working women. At my local station over 250 car park spaces are provided. The ones that are parking at anytime are around 50 and the rest are by season ticket before 9 a.m. or you face a penalty. Women are more likely than men to be affected by this system
  • Schools also seem to be set up on the premise that one parent (usually the mother) does not work. School hours are from 9:15- 3:15 in most areas, which means that more women than men will need to pay for or use some out of school hours childcare, yet as the gender pay gap will show in 2017 in the majority of organisations in the UK, pay is in favour of men rather than women.

This is why I am feminist and why I support and believe that organisations should support and put in place gender hubs in their organisations if they do not already have one. It is not just about talking the talk about gender, the time for this is past! Organisations need to wake up and realise that by perpetuating gender norms, gender stereotypes and gender bias they are weakening their productivity and disengaging a significant proportion of their workforce. Women are a force to be reckoned with and we should not be discounted in the value add that we bring to organisations. Gone are the days when we were their to make the tea or type the letters. We are powerful acquisitions of self taught inherent knowledge. Which other gender (without surgical interventions) could grow an entire human being, whilst holding down a job, managing a home, supporting a partner, being an effective team player and all round “Jill” of all trades?

I often feel like paraphrasing Rainbow Johnson from the American TV Series Blackish. Rainbow is a doctor and takes every opportunity to remind her husband that she is a doctor and she saves lives. Whenever men or women seek to question my value add or put down my opinion or contribution because I am a woman,  I often want to say and remind them that I am woman and I create life!  

Organisations that fail to address their gender pay issues will find themselves paying a high cost for this failure and losing in some cases the most valuable talent that they have.

To quote Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie “If we do something over and over again, it becomes normal. If we see the same thing over and over again, it becomes normal…if we keep seeing only men as heads of corporations, it starts to seem ‘natural’ that only men should be heads of corporation.” because something becomes habit forming and appears normal does not mean that it is and where ever we come across issues of gender unfairness or bias we should stamp it out.

By the way if you have not read her book “We Should all be Feminists” do so!

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