Ladies, it's our own fault we're paid less

Ruth Jackson's picture

So we’ve got another century to wait before women achieve pay parity with men.

That figure comes from a survey by the Chartered Management Institute, which showed that the average female executive earns £10,546 less than her male counterparts. Add to that the fact that women’s pay is growing at a rate of 2.4% ­– 0.3% faster than men, and you come up with the magic number that says it will take 98 years to close the gap.

Read: Women face 100 year wait for equal pay

Obviously, this is ludicrous. Pay growth will fluctuate, attitudes will change - after all 100 years ago the idea of a female executive was unthinkable - and the world will move forward. It won’t take 98 years for that pay gap to close – but it isn’t going to close anytime soon unless the issue gets pushed.

So, back to the here and now and that £10,546 gap. We all know that pay is unequal between the sexes, but I for one didn’t realise the gap was that big. Put that in terms of annual pay and while men are getting paid year round women pretty much stop getting paid at the start of November. Look around your office ladies, you’re putting in eight weeks’ unpaid effort compared to that man at the desk next to you.

So why the split?

So why hasn’t this corporate sexism been stamped out? As much as I believe there are changes to be made in the business world – an equal split on parental leave for a start would eliminate the prejudice against female workers of child-bearing age – I also think women have to recognise their own failings in the matter. Don’t let the sisterhood strike me down, but there is still a gender pay gap because we allow it.

We can’t really blame governments as a comparison around the world shows that equal pay is a problem in most developed nations. From conservative America to liberal Scandinavia, women get paid less than men. So what can we do?

If we want to speed up the process to equal pay we have to light a fire under the issue. We can’t just roll our eyes, mutter about sexism and – let’s be fair – assume it’s not us who are being paid unfairly, it’s wider womankind. The chances are you are being paid less than your male equivalent. And that’s not necessarily the fault of your bosses.

When you were offered your current job did you happily accept it? Were you so grateful and thrilled that someone had recognised your talents that you quickly signed on the dotted line? Guess what, the chances are your male colleague didn’t.

Surveys have shown that when men are offered a job they start haggling the salary, usually successfully meaning they start off earning more than women who just accept the salary they are offered. The only person to blame for that, I’m afraid, is the woman. I know it’s awkward ladies but we have to be more proactive about our pay.

We all need to learn to value our skills and talents more and be prepared to fight to get the pay our assets deserve. If we start fighting on an individual level to get the pay we deserve, that pay gap will soon start shrinking.

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Your Comments

Really thought provoking...

'8 weeks unpaid'-that's crazy. I'm not sure we are to blame or at fault but we should definitely all take responsibility to challenge and change the gap!

Shocking when you put the pay differential into "unpaid weeks". Any tips on how to negotiate pay rates and rises?

Although this isn't true of my current workplace, where reasonable parity between male and female salaries is maintained, I have been aware of it in more aggressive environments - specifically, financial services. Having been exposed to this has taught me to ALWAYS haggle for the best possible salary package, but I know many who do not always feel so confident as to do this.

It would be interesting to know whether these statistics are comparing apples with apples - i.e. whether they are assessing the full time male executive with the full time female executive. It's pretty logical to assume that there are more female executives trying to achieve a work life balance by working flexibly and perhaps with a reduction in hours to make sure they don't miss out on their child's life, while it is - in my own experience, anyway - less likely that men will fight for this rather than an increased salary and MORE hours. While I would describe myself as a strident feminist, there's still an obvious difference in the way that even the high flying women of my acquaintance view life when they reach their 30s and 40s. I've seen women cut down their hours, care less about the office politics and prefer go home to see their kids, nieces, nephews, etc. than go for a high tension drink with colleagues. In contrast, male high flyers will 9 times out of 10 see that the best way to support their family is financially rather than emotionally - which, by the way, I think is fine. I also think it's fine when women choose this route, as feminism has given them the right to act in whatever way they wish. BUT I know this is not the way I will react personally, feminism or no feminism, because it's just not the way I'm made. I care about my rights and will fight when I feel they are being infringed, but I am not going to prioritise high wages over a happy home life when and if I decide to reproduce.

In any case, while I agree with the sentiment, sweeping statements over inequality in pay when referring only to a survey on executive wages by the Chartered Management Institute (who, by the way, require organisations to take part in these surveys) can set back the feminist movement or raise unnecessary argument. I doubt these figures include executives of not for proft or charitable organisations (traditionally female dominated) and are likely skewed by highly pressurised businesses that have been seen traditionally to provide little support to working mothers.

So yes: women should haggle, women should stand up for their rights. But I would still like to check the stats first ;)

As a modern day woman and thankful to the Suffragette movement, I think that in theory a woman should be paid equally to her male counterpart. However, I have many female friends who for instance expect a man to pay for dinner - this may be down to tales of "gentlemen" and chivalry but if we are to expect equal benefits from employment, we need to realise that everything should be equal.
Well written article - gave me much to think about over lunch.