UST when you think the gender pay gap narrative couldn’t get any sillier, it does. On Wednesday the Government Equalities Office reported that ‘Women pick jobs closer to family over bigger salary’. Apparently ‘women are more likely to leave a job because of a longer commute, but a man is more content to travel longer for higher pay – inflaming the gender pay gap’. There are statistics to prove it.
What is not clear is who is misbehaving. Is it the women for not wanting the long commute – or the men for undertaking such journeys?
Amber Rudd, the latest Minister for Women and Equalities, appears to think that everyone is behaving badly. She said: ‘These statistics show how women are likely sacrificing a larger paypacket, and career growth, because they are doing the bulk of childcare and unpaid work – like taking care of elderly relatives and their home.’ So women are behaving badly because they’re choosing to spend time with children, parents, and doing unpaid work, perhaps volunteering at a school. Men are behaving badly because they are undertaking long commutes, earning higher salaries and advancing their careers, to support their families and enable their wives to spend more time with young children and wider family.
Perhaps some men and women who have chosen to spend their lives together have thought this through. They might have talked about it. Perhaps the woman has expressed a preference for a life more focused around the home and the pleasure and joy of bringing up young children. Perhaps the man has said he is willing to put in the long hours to support her. Maybe he enjoys the cut and thrust of office life, even if this means a long and sometimes unpleasant commute.
But if this type of behaviour leads to messy statistics should it be allowed? It is extraordinary to realise that the current Conservatives would say it should be allowed, but it should be discouraged. We want the kids in childcare, the ageing parents to become bedblockers. We’ll be monitoring the commuting statistics and we want men and women to aim towards a commute of equal average duration. By the way the average is calculated using a median, not a mean, figure. This means that outlier positions don’t mess the stats too much. Bagsy an outlier position. I like my kids, my ageing mother, and I’d love to do more volunteer work at my local school.
PS: I’m also grateful to my husband for the long hours he puts in, although, given that he works from home, I do wish sometimes that he had a longer commute.