Women in the UK have been working for free for the last three weeks, not literally, granted, but according to the Fawcett Society an advocacy group for gender equality, the UK gender pay gap means women won’t be collecting paychecks for work completed from the 4th November. The Office of National Statistics (ONS), says the UK gender pay gap stands at 19.7%, a rise from last year meaning that for every £1 paid to a man, a woman gets a little over 80p. For the majority of sectors women are consistently paid less than men with similar experience and qualifications. These differences in earnings begin from the very first step on the career ladder. Studies have shown huge gender discrimination among companies. For example, in the famous 2012 study by Yale University, which sent employers exactly the same CV for hundreds of entry-level scientific academic jobs. Those with the name Jennifer on the letterhead attracted offers of $4,000 less than those with the name John.
Gender discrimination exists even at the highest levels; the Chartered Management Institute recently reported female executives were paid £10,060 less than male colleagues. However, it doesn’t stop there, if you’re a mother, you’re less likely to even receive a job offer. A 2008 study by Stanford University found childless women received over twice as many positive responses to applications as equally qualified mothers. As for men the reverse was true. A finding supported by a recent ONS report that found “men with children [were] more likely to work than those without” – it was the opposite picture for women. These findings highlight systemic gender discrimination in our workplaces. We must demand greater pay transparency from large corporations and employers if we are going to change this. The Fawcett Society is calling for Section 78 of the 2010 Equality Act to be enforced, making it compulsory for businesses with more than 250 employees to publish data on pay by gender. Mandatory gender pay audits for businesses were scrapped under the coalition government and replaced by a voluntary programme ‘Think, Act, Report’ which hoped to encourage companies to review pay data and report the findings. Disappointingly, however, few businesses have actually done this.
There are two of reasons for this. Firstly, because it costs money to gather and report this data and secondly, it maintains the culture of secrecy in business that allows higher-level staff, most often white men, to retain their positions of power. What would we find if they did release these reports? If the data mirrored existing evidence, it would prove that women and people of different race in these companies get paid the least. The coalition government has done little to push for greater transparency around pay. Again the policies of this government favour big business profits rather than striving to tackle the inequalities that negatively impact upon the public. Once this data becomes freely available, policies to provide more equal financial distribution between gender and race within companies can get underway. Hopefully when that happens the underpaid will get a sense of their true worth.