Thursday, 14 August 2014

"Five myths about the gender pay gap"

For a bit of light relief, I read an article at Comment Is Free:

... to make the pervasive myths slightly easier to debunk, here are five retorts. Ladies, if the continued experience of being devalued is getting you down, you can always distribute this piece to pay-gap naysayers. Off we go!

There is no gender pay gap

Alas, there is a gender pay gap...

The gender pay gap only exists because women have babies

... it isn’t quite true. I say “quite” because it’s undeniable that the time women take off to become mothers – often out of necessity because of maternity leave arrangements and childcare costs – has an enormous impact on wages.

But according to figures based on the Office of National Statistics Annual Survey of Hours and Incomes, the pay gap between men and women in their 20s has doubled since 2010.

Let's do these together.

I checked the ONS thing, the 'gender pay gap' for median full time wages is as follows:

18-21 - 8%
22-29 - 6%
30-39 - 9%
40-49 - 29%
50-59 - 32%
60+ - 27%

So that's one heck of a jump between under and over 40, which can largely be explained by women having taken career breaks for babies and/or women with kids choosing jobs with regular or predictable hours, i.e. less overtime, no long business trips, no night shifts, no working away from home etc, which as you might expect are lower paid.

Under the age of 40, the gap is so small as to be not worth worrying about. She makes a false comparison about the gender pay gap for people in their 20s having doubled since 2010, the long term trend is a narrowing of the gap and if there is a blip when it increases from 3% to 6%, well so what.

The gender pay gap exists because women aren’t as assertive as men

Women aren’t ambitious enough to pursue top jobs

That's the same argument twice and difficult to prove either way. Cause and effect.

The pay gap has a load of practical explanations and is nothing to do with sexism at all

This one's weird.

She links to list of anecdotes about the condescending behaviour suffered by some women in 'traditionally' male jobs. There's no doubt that this behaviour exists and it is regrettable, but it has f- all to do with the 'gender pay gap'.

And when women get together it is quite normal for them to belittle their husbands, even when their husbands are present. It's not pleasant either, but men just put up with it. What goes around comes around. (Clearly, men occasionally moan about their wives when they're among friends but seldom when their wives are present.)


Ben Jamin' said...

If I were sexist, racist, homophobic, ageist etc, etc, BUT ran my own company, the only criteria I'd be interested in when employing someone, is how good are they at doing their job.

If you choose any other, you are giving your competitors an advantage.

I'm sure all these ISM's do exist, and are a factor, but not enough to justify legislation. It probably only makes things harder.

Maybe I'm naive, and people aren't primarily motivated by making money, but petty prejudice.

Sobers said...

There is a gender pay gap BUT it predominantly because part-time jobs are generally lower paid, and woman are far more likely to have part-time jobs. I think its the case (I seen it quoted elsewhere) that when you compare men and women in full time employment, women actually out earn men in their 20s, and its only once the baby years kick in that the men pull ahead.

Mark Wadsworth said...

BJ, clearly some employers are motivated by petty prejudice. Go to your nearest Post Office.

S, no, there are separate tables for part time (where interestingly, women earn slightly more than men). I was looking at the median full time gross figures.

I think that 20-29 year old women caught up a couple of years ago, or even got ahead, but according to ONS figures they have fallen slightly behind again.

Lola said...

My wife has told me never to moan about her when I am out with my buddies. I always do as I am told.

Macheath said...

Having taken a career break to being up children, it is almost impossible to get back into the workplace full-time, especially if restricted in location by one's partner's place of work.

In many better-paid fields, women over 40 are being passed over in favour of younger staff with more recent training and qualifications and often end up working part-time or in a series of short-term maternity covers for women who would, in the past, have vacated the positions to raise a family.

There is a certain irony in the way policies intended to get mothers of young children into the workplace have effectively blocked the return to work of for the previous generation and thus brought about substantial pay inequality for large numbers of older women.

Mark Wadsworth said...

L, you are a good lad.

McH, good summary and yes, that's the mothers' pay gap (or fathers' pay gap) in action. It's not really a 'gender pay gap'.