Tuesday, July 23, 2024
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What we need is a bigger gender pay gap


UNDER the heading ‘Progress on the Gender Pay Gap 2019’, an economic research company called Glassdoor reveals that ‘The unadjusted pay gap between men and women in the UK is 17.9 per cent, meaning women earn, on average, 82p for every £1 men earn.’ Apparently that is an ‘improvement’ on three years ago.

With gender pay gap reports abounding every time you open a paper, perhaps this one won’t make news. If it does, no doubt the ‘headline’ figure will prevail. But Glassdoor have tried to dig a bit deeper. They have done statistical analysis that attempts to control for a whole list of factors such as industry, age, experience etc. When they do this, they still come up with a gender pay gap – but much reduced at 5 per cent. The problem with this kind of detailed statistical probing is that you cannot control for everything. You are going to have to use some kind of banding somewhere, and as long as women are at the bottom end of the band, a ‘pay gap’ will be revealed. So why might women be at the bottom end of the band?

Study after study has shown that the pay gap is caused by women choosing to spend time at home with their children. Here is one version of the chart that shows this, provided by The Economist.

The insidious thing about the endless pay gap reporting is this. If it is caused by women choosing to spend time at home with their children, then it will be solved by women choosing to spend less time at home with their children. Who decided that this is a good idea? Why is this pushed relentlessly? The Economist, in the report linked to above, makes this explicit. It says: ‘All of which is a lesson to those mothers who want their daughters to bridge the gender pay gap. Their wishes are more likely to come true if they lead by example when their girls are young.’

That is sort of totalitarian. And absurd – what mother ‘wants their daughters to bridge the pay gap’? I want my daughters to be happy, to be kind and brave, and to have character.

I think we would be better off as a society if more women chose to spend more time at home with their children. I think children would be happier and their mothers and fathers happier. Not everyone, of course. I believe in freedom and people working out for themselves how to live. But ‘there is such a thing as society’, and I think the perennial drip, drip, drip around the gender pay gap can’t help but influence people. It invalidates women who choose to stay at home with their children. It casts them as part of a problem. Can anyone deny this?

I’d like to see the gender pay gap increase.

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Caroline ffiske
Caroline ffiske
Caroline ffiske is a former adviser to the New Zealand Government, served two terms as a Conservative councillor in Hammersmith & Fulham and is currently a full-time mother. She tweets as @carolinefff

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