We are having one of our regular drumbeats about the gender pay gap, with the BBC singing the chorus and the liberal media playing the tune.

The reality is that from 20-39 women are paid marginally more than men. By their late 30s the choices which women have made around their children and family start to be reflected in what they are paid for their work.

We have a wage gap because women prefer shorter hours, flexible and not too demanding employment, and they don’t like to travel far to their work. They are much more likely to work part-time encouraged by the fact that they are paid 5.7 per cent more than men for this. Women choose jobs which they can fit around their families and children. They prefer to work with people, which encourages them into less lucrative sectors of the employment market. Men are happier to work with things.

The idea is that we are paid the same for work of equal value. However equal value is not determined by market forces but by what women consider fair. That men are more likely to relocate or spend longer travelling to work, work outside doing strenuous and frequently hazardous activities, the fact that they work longer hours and do more overtime – none of this seems to be factored in when determining the value of work. Birmingham City Council had to pay one billion pounds to dinner ladies who decided, along with a legal system that backed them, that their work was of equal value to dustbin men’s – men who no doubt start their day a lot earlier and are employed for longer hours and do smelly, outdoor, physically strenuous work.

I recently pointed out how when it comes to our education system, equality policies focus on one tiny corner, the employment of senior academics, because this is the only area in the whole of the education system where women are either not dominant or at least equally employed. Feminists have adopted the same strategy when it comes to work.

No one complains about the fact that men work longer and harder than women. Nor that a larger proportion of men’s wages are paid in tax. We are not interested in the fact that men are more likely to be killed or injured at work. Or that their absence from the corridors of higher education means that their employment opportunities are dropping fast. No one campaigns for equal wages for men in part-time employment and men do not complain about severely reduced access to flexible work. Women have little reason to be concerned by any of these things since they are the ones spending the vast majority of what men earn.

This is, of course, the reason why men are better at negotiating wages – the only area of the gender pay gap that may be real. Where women work for themselves, men work for others. Women’s interest in their family motivates them to work fewer hours. Men’s interest in their family motivates them work longer hours and ask for more money.

Leading women to believe that they are being treated unfairly will increase their perceived injustice. Encouraging them to demand more from companies, as Education Secretary Nicky Morgan is doing, will increase the female sense of entitlement. Neither will lead employers to wanting more women at work.

 

(Image: BPW Germany, Flickr)