Is it a Gender Pay Gap or a Life Pay Gap?

Last week the gender pay gap figures were published and surprise surprise, after all the hullabaloo of 100 years of the women’s suffrage movement last year, the ‘#MeToo’ and ‘Time’s Up’ movements and all the zeitgeisty things pushing women’s equality to the fore, the gender pay gap is no better! Some optimists estimate it will take 60 years, the pessimists say 200 years. What is it to be? We call it the Gender pay gap but, in my view, those who choose to take care of life are penalised financially and this doesn’t speak well of our society. I do address this in my book: Octopus on a Treadmill: Women, Success, Health, Happiness so I will not get on my high horse here.

I must say I am eternally puzzled by the fact that in this day and age, women still have to fight for equality. Everyone understands fairness and even kids in the playground can be seen to be stomping their feet at first hint of unfairness, screaming ‘it’s not fair’. So why do we lose this sense of fairness as we grow up and start working and decide that if it is to do with women, it can’t be valued at the same rate as men? I find it mind boggling.

Women bear the brunt of what I call ‘Lifecare’ and for that we pay the price of low remuneration, if we get remunerated at all. Traditionally the men went out to make money and the women took care of all the other things that money was needed for, plus the additional things that money had no bearing on. Men have had this luxury of going out to work, unencumbered by the distractions of taking care of life, while women when they ventured into the workplace outside the home, continued with the responsibility for work inside the home. So no, it is not a level playing field and women, if unencumbered, will be able to go toe to toe with men and we wouldn’t need to be discussing the gender pay gap. But:

• Who is going to take care of life?
• Who is going to take care of the children and elderly parents? The dentist and opticians’ appointments?
• Who is going to do the housework?
• Who is going to volunteer to go to school and support the teachers to help the children read?
• Who is going to organise the bake sale?
• Who is going to organise the all-important sleepover to ensure that the children have a social life which massively impacts their emotional template?

Women predominantly take care of life and they don’t get paid for it so there is a life pay gap not a gender pay gap. A civilised society should be looking to properly compensate the members of their society who have chosen to take care of life to ensure we have a stable society. Women should not be penalised for this but that is what happens. You are alright until you decide to step into the world of rearing children or taking care of people who need you and then you become part of an invisible workforce.

Now this is the sad bit, even women, who chose not to have children are tarred with the same brush. We are traditionally in low paid roles, or the assumption is that we are going to disappear off at some stage, so we cannot be put in high pressure roles. So, by virtue of being a woman you are typecast and before you know it, you are caught in a gender pay gap, children or not!

Of course, there are a plethora of other reasons why women earn less than men and we are not even talking here of earning less for the doing the same job as men. (Even though we know that this is illegal, we all pretend it doesn’t exist.) Below are some of the reasons why women earn less than men:

• Women work in traditionally low paid jobs like hospitality and caring professions.
• Shift work (to be able to fit their caring responsibilities around it.)
• A dearth of good quality well paid part-time jobs
• Pay secrecy (So you don’t know what your male colleagues are earning to be able to drive a better bargain and take advantage of their braggadocio)
• Pay History (The fact that you didn’t have the courage or knowledge to ask for the right level of pay in your last job doesn’t mean you should be held to that, now that you know better.) But recruiters insist on asking what you are on, rather than declaring what the role is paying.

The government has now made it mandatory for companies that employ 250 or more to publish their gender pay gap figures yearly. This is a step in the right direction but is it really naming and shaming if they can all point to the reasons why there is this pay disparity and we all stand around nodding at the justification? If you work in the airline industry and most of the pilots are men and the cabin crew are mostly women, you clearly argue that they are doing different roles with the pay set at different grades. But who is going to the next level to ensure that women that want to be pilots are being trained as pilots and that there are no barriers to entry for women and that there are working practices in place to support them when they are pregnant and can’t fly and they are not penalised for it?

Who is going to the next level to ensure that women doctors that want to be consultants are not hived off into a different medical career path because they cannot do the hours that would force them to literally abandon their hopes of family life and choose between their career or their family? Men seldom face such a stark choice, because there will be a woman there in the background, facilitating his choices so that there is never a sacrifice while he heads off into the boardroom.

It is not a level playing field and rather than publishing statistics on statistics for all of us to stand around with our hands on our hips feigning indignation that the gender pay gap is not getting any better, we have put measures in place that allow women to operate on a level playing field.

For me, the gender pay gap issue is a relatively simple one and here is how to resolve it. Put men in the traditionally caring roles that women have been doing for donkey years (your CEOs, Managing Directors, you know the roles I am talking about). Suddenly they are not available to provide their expertise, but you need them in the work force. What measures are you going to put in place to support them to be able to come back to work unencumbered?

Wrap your head around that and you will be in the position to start having the conversation about how we kill the gender pay gap.