Last week was another lesson in how the minds work of a minority of people who believe equality issues can be only be an equality issue when they refer to women and girls – not men and boys. As my colleague in the House of Commons, Philip Davies MP, noted in a speech on differences in the length of criminal convictions between men and women for the same crime: “We have an equality-only-when-it-suits agenda”. It is the same, it seems, for this minority of people when it comes to inequality in the education sector.
On Tuesday, I hosted a well-attended parliamentary debate on the underperformance of boys throughout the education system and the gender education gap, which was accompanied by a number of media articles including in the Guardian and the Telegraph, which were mainly met with a positive response. In the debate, I raised facts about its impact – such as nowadays 30,000 fewer men are apprentices, 60,000 fewer go to university every year, and, between the ages of 22 and 29, young men on average earn less than young women in full time and part time roles. I also raised, as did others, a number of possible solutions, such as the need to recruit and retain more male teachers, long-term apprenticeships and to ensure schools were more “boy-friendly”. There is still much more research that needs to be done and this was why it was so disappointing that the need to tackle this clear issue was not adequately addressed by the Government in the debate.
As a way of pointing out the fact that this gender pay gap is never recognised or mentioned by those campaigning on the subject, I described those campaigners as the “shrill equal-pay brigade who whilst proclaiming the need for equality, seem to quietly gloss over this fact when shouting from the roof tops.” It is true. Not only in terms of never mentioning the gender pay gap for young men, but also in terms of the tone and style of their contributions to any debate on the matter.
The gender pay gap is based on a range of factors predominately based on motherhood, hence why the gap starts for women in their 30s. There is no proof that women systematically are paid less for the same job with the same organisation when they have the same experience, talent and add the same value to the bottom line. It is not, as one journalist proclaimed in a particular shrill article, that “women get 82 p to the man pound”. The shrillness I described is because the tone of the debate does not recognise sufficiently the motherhood issue, the lack of proof of institutional discrimination and the fact that if anyone points this out (or dare mention the gender pay gap for men) they are howled down.
I saw this on the education issue we debated because, prompted by someone working for Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh, self-titled equalities campaigners, clickbait media and Twitter all went into meltdown, even so far as calling me among other things a “cxxx”, “sxxxbag” and “vile” (I thought only women received online abuse?) No matter to me – I, and my family, have had worse.
This has been a genuinely enlightening experience. By failing to address, or even caring, about the issues I and many other parliamentarians raised about the gender education gap and the impact it has on the boys in our society, it proves once again that those self-styled equalities campaigners and equality organisations (Fawcett Society, Women’s Equality Party) are only interested in equality matters for 51 per cent of the population – women and girls. Rather than recognise equalities issues affecting the other 49 per cent (men and boys) as well, they would rather try and close down the debate by focusing on one phrase they disagree with and use this as a tool for silencing discussion and the whole debate on the substantive issue.
What is so sad about this strategy of course is they forget that every boy left behind has a mother and possibly a sister, and later in life will probably have a female partner or a wife and also daughters. The gender education gap will therefore affect those women and girls too. As does the fact that the majority of people who commit suicide, die in the workplace and sleep rough on our streets are also men. Men and women do not live in isolation. Perhaps those self-appointed equalities campaigners should think about that before they raise their shrill voices. Perhaps they should genuinely play the ball and not the man – that is what genuine equalities campaigners do.
Karl McCartney is the Member of Parliament for the City of Lincoln, a member of the 1922 Executive and the Transport Select Committee.
(Image: Wilson Hui)