Joanna Williams

Tackling the gender pay gap could leave us all worse off

Tackling the gender pay gap could leave us all worse off
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It's International Women’s Day. As feminists rush to detail the many disadvantages still facing women (yes, all women, everywhere) we’ll no doubt hear a great deal about the gender pay gap. In that regard, International Women’s Day is a bit like every other day of the year. But let’s go with it.

According to the Office for National Statistics, the gap between the median hourly earnings of men and women working full time is 9.1 per cent. The Fawcett Society prefers the mean figure of 14.1 per cent. Actually, they’d like us to focus on the gap between the total average earnings of men compared to women – about 18.4 per cent. Whatever. When we compare the pay of men and women doing the same jobs, at the same level, for the same number of hours the pay gap shrinks into insignificance.

But the pay gap is big news at the moment as businesses rush to publish their gender pay gap data before the end of the month deadline. Under new legislation, any company employing more than 250 people must report pay differentials to the Government Equalities Office. This is how we know that easyJet has a massive 52 per cent gender pay gap. It turns out that pilots earn more than cabin crew and more men than women work as pilots. Who’d have guessed?

Just as shocking was this week’s revelation that Parliament has a gender pay gap of 10.4 per cent. MPs salaries are paid at a standard rate regardless of sex and Labour men and women take home pretty much the same. But it turns out that some entrepreneurial Conservative members like to earn a bit on the side. Not only are there more Tory men than women but their extramural activities bump up their overall salaries. In fact, Geoffrey Cox, the Conservative MP for Torridge and West Devon, who works part-time as a barrister, single-handedly inflates the male average with the £464,707.66 he has declared in earnings since June last year.

But enough of this rationalisation. It’s 2018 and the gender pay gap should have been laid to rest a long time ago. To this end, I’d like to present some suggestions for tackling this sexist scourge on our society, four small proposals for campaigners to rally behind.

Firstly, we need to stop letting girls choose which subjects to study. Although there are more women than men at university, men still dominate in physics, economics and engineering. If we’re serious about addressing the gender pay gap, then women need to be banned from gender studies, sociology, psychology and all branches of arts and humanities. Perhaps then they’ll aim for higher paid careers in the science and technology sectors. And if they don’t, then perhaps quotas should be instigated so women are compelled to take their fair share of places in labs.

Then, we need a campaign to cut back on maternity leave and for far more bosses to step up to the plate and refuse women permission to work part-time once they have children. As a recent report from the IFS shows, part-time work plays a major role in the gender pay gap. Women who work part-time initially earn the same as their male colleagues but over a number of years their pay begins to lag. They are not actually at work as much as full-time colleagues and so they gain experience more slowly, miss out on some training opportunities and are less likely to apply for promotion. Women need to be prevented from sabotaging their career prospects in this way.

After that, we need to consider cutting men’s wages. Fortunately, this is already being given serious consideration and is actually happening at the BBC. John Humphries set men everywhere a noble example when he agreed to a pay cut. As an added bonus: bosses will love this measure. Not only will wage bills be reduced but they get good feminist points too. Indeed, Tesco could easily solve its impending equal pay law suit by paying male warehouse staff less. If families that pool money to pay the bills lose out well, so be it. It’s not about demanding higher wages but principles and equality, right? Women will just have to spend more time at work to make up the shortfall. Win win!

Finally, but perhaps the most obvious measure of them all, simply pay women more. Again, there’s a precedent. In 2016, the University of Essex gave all its women professors a one-off salary boost to wipe out a gender pay gap pay. Disciplinary differences, length of service and publication record were all ignored; as the university’s Vice Chancellor said:

‘This decision ensures we reward people in a fair way, based upon their contribution to our community, regardless of their personal characteristics.’

The beauty of this measure is clearly its simplicity. Got a vagina? Have £5000! These easy-to-follow steps will soon put an end to the gender pay gap. And women everywhere will be eternally grateful: who wouldn’t want to live in this brave new world?