Gender Pay Gap “Not Closing,” Says U.K. Study
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In case you missed it, President Obama signed legislation into law earlier this year that mandated equal pay for equal work between men and women. This was a landmark in gender politics in the workplace for Americans, and it was a long time in coming. However, when it comes to the actual careers men end of choosing vs. what women choose on average, there is still a large gender pay gap. This can lead to an occasional need for payday loans and unsecured loans.
The gap is not closing
That’s what BBC News has found. Thanks to studies by groups like the Women and Work Commission, it has been determined that government in the United Kingdom is doing too little to tackle the issue of gender stereotypes in schools. They believe that this is the cause of the widening gap: women are still being steered toward “traditional” jobs. From 2007 to 2008, the gender pay gap in the United Kingdom jumped from 21.9 percent to 22.6 percent.
Tackling the stereotypes
“The government is committed to tackling inequalities in the workplace and progress has been made across the public sector and in helping women get the skills and training they need,” said Baroness Margaret Prosser, chair of the Women and Work Commission. “But ministers must match commitment with fundamental change that will make a real difference – starting in our schools.”
In other words, it starts with education. This is something any country could learn from.
Battling for equal rights
Harriet Harman, a women’s rights advocate who is closely tied to the work being done to combat the gender pay gap in the United Kingdom, is prepared to do whatever it takes to ensure that such a thing ceases to exist. She told the BBC that women should nothing less than the following:
We will ban secrecy clauses in employment contracts so that women can challenge unfair pay. And we will encourage business to report on gender pay, but let us make no mistake: if voluntary measures do not work we will take stronger measures to ensure equal pay for women.
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Small steps are good, but large bounds are needed
Areas like childcare and the right to request a flexible work schedule have been addressed, but the larger issues still sit there like a dragon in the room. A report by the Women and Work Commission not only does the gender pay gay persist “despite monumental changes in women’s position in the workplace,” but not enough is being done to promote flex schedules and the option of part time work. They believe the government should make it a priority to change the way schools teach gender roles and careers to girls, starting with making sure that the curriculum expands upon the traditional “five c” careers for women: caring, cashiering, clerical, cleaning and catering. Pay levels in such jobs are lower, which is largely responsible for the gender pay gap.
While there’s certainly nothing wrong with those jobs, groups like the Women and Work Commission want English schools to teach that those are just a few options. There are more career options, ones in which women can excel just as much or more than men. Baroness Prosser envisions schools as places that help plant seeds that can grow: “We need to make our schools the nurturing ground for ambition so that everyone has the opportunity to use their talents to the full.”
Recommendations for gender equity in the workplace
Here are just a few of the recommendations made by the Women and Work Commission’s study on the state of the gender pay gap in the United Kingdom:
- Work experience placements for girls in occupations where women are traditionally not well represented
- Buddy program to team girls together on placements in non-traditional sectors to help with their confidence
- Similar buddy system for apprenticeships and diplomas to allow participants to speak to successful women in similar jobs
- A careers adviser trained in challenging gender and socio-economic stereotyping for every school
- In childcare, the government should consider what could be done to boost wages and professionalize the sector, which still attracts mainly women workers
Where are the women?
Anna Mann of MWM Consulting knows that there are high-profile companies out there that are prepared to consider the top female talent, but it doesn’t happen: “Most companies are crying out for qualified female candidates, but the fact is that there are still too few women with the experience to take on these roles,” she told the BBC. She then went on to stress how important networking and developing experience will be if they are to establish themselves in senior roles with major companies. Changing the way school systems teach young girls could pave the way toward the option of successful professional lives if young women choose them.
But some still see traditional causes for the gap
Straight and simple discrimination is the culprit for the gender pay gap, says Kat Banyard of the gender equity group the Fawcett Society. “The largest single cause of the pay gap is discrimination, the solution is not less segregation of roles, but paying women what they are worth,” said Banyard.
The UK is considering an Equality Bill
Many would say that it’s high time for that, considering that the frequently backward thinking United States has managed to produce such a law. Banyard sees the Equality Bill as “a once-in-a-generation opportunity” for the government to close the gap.
Trades Union Congress General Secretary Brendan Barber agrees that the United Kingdom has quite an opportunity here to close the gender pay gap. He also feels that the Women and Work Commission’s findings on pay disparity should serve as a “stern wake-up call” to those who think the United Kingdom boasts a modern, enlightened system of labor compensation.