The gender pay gap. The trending buzzword in the eco-political sphere. This hot topic has stirred significant controversy amongst the general public. The data that has been presented has sparked one of the largest political debates of the modern-day. Despite this, it is a very complex issue. The figures display a clear discrepancy between men and women’s pay. However, the controversy stems from the disputes over the root causes of the problem.
So, what is the gender pay gap? What are people in conflict over? How is it affecting our businesses? We will need to understand all of the above if we are to make any headway in understanding these issues.
What is the gender pay gap?
According to the Office for National Statistics, the gender pay gap is defined as the ‘percentage difference between men’s and women’s median hourly earnings, across all jobs in the UK’. Categorically, it is not a measure of the difference in pay between men and women for doing the same job.
The figures take into account, full time and part-time work and are often presented in either an unadjusted or adjusted format. The adjusted format includes extra parameters such as differences in hours worked, occupations chosen, education and job experience. This can significantly alter the statistics which can lead to some confusion on the gravity of the situation. But one thing is for sure, there is a clear discrepancy. But by how much?
How bad is the Gender wage gap?
According to the independent fact-checking charity, Full Fact, we can see that
78% of employers with over 250 employees, who were surveyed, had a wage gap that leaned in favor of men.
The median hourly wage clocked in at 10% less than men which compares to the average of around 18% across all UK workers.
14% of employers who had more than 250 employees came back with no visible gender pay gap
8% employers had an 8% leniency in favour of women.
The UK ranks 6th worldwide for the most broad pay gap (according to an article by Business Insider).
Despite this, we have seen a narrowing over the last decades. The stats from Full Fact show that the UK wage gap has narrowed just over 30% since 1970.
In addition to this, when the World Economic Forum released their Global Gender Gap Report 2018 it was suggested that overall the gender gap has been reduced by 0.03% since last year and by 3.6% since 2006.
We can see, by the statistics, that the majority of companies, corporations, politicians and society is heading in the right direction with regard to gender based financial equality in the workplace.
Despite a steady narrowing, understandably women across the country are fighting for the change to come faster. What are the main debates and issues surrounding the changes? This is an area that tends to breed hostility amongst opposing parties
The current state of opinions
Often, the gender pay gaps get a lot of negative backlash from members of the public and the press.
Feminists and female advocates argue that women are significantly less likely to get into senior positions. The sectors that seems to have a higher percentage of men working in them including piloting airplanes, working in warehouses or on oil rigs seems to attract higher pay than the kinds of jobs women choose to do. Some women have been calling for quotas, pay-cuts for men and pay incentives for women to help level the playing field in the world of work.
Some more extreme lines of arguments involves a distaste for the patriarchy and the ‘Old Boy’ network. Some women feel like they are unable to challenge choices in the workplace. This is also seen in negotiation where women feel unable to negotiate their value. It isn’t because women are less educated or any less capable. Many women struggle to slot into the predominantly male filled corporate setting.
On the flip side, many oppose the credibility of the gender pay gap and deny that its impact is that damaging. Many of the arguments preconceived that women should, and can be, more entrepreneurial and create their own business in which to get into higher positions. This point of view also tends to promote the idea that a whole host of socio-economic factors are to blame. They believe that taking into account things such as maternity leave, hours worked and types of contract (full-time, part-time, etc) will inevitably change the outcome. People with this viewpoint would argue that it is mainly these reasons and not so much systematic oppression.
It is these heavily conflicting views that have begun to create a rift between men and women in the workplace. How damaging is it to your workplace? It probably won’t hurt your business too much but there are factors to consider.
Potential impact of the gender pay gap in your organisation
One of the problems with the gender pay gap, facing many companies, is the disclosing of the statistics. They run the risk of displeasing a lot of employees if the statistics suggests an unequal treatment of their employees. Be aware this could possibly open up a can of worms and could lead to a lot of negotiating and implementing affirmative action on your business. The key is to be transparent with your pay. Explain that the situation and a plan to rectify the situation. This will ease the potential stress of the individual’s financial well being. Being honest will also help improve the employee experience as you are proving to care about your employees and being upfront in your plans to rectify the ‘sticky situation’.
There are other solutions.It is important to note that wages are important, but they are not the be all or end all. According to a study by Each Person. That said, almost half (48%) said a simple thank you would make them feel more valued. 32% said a reward for a job well done. While remuneration is important, it isn’t the only thing an employee needs. Staff also have psychological needs such as fulfilment, happiness and pride that need to be satisfied. Consider supplying alternatives if you are an organisation that is affected by wage gap differences. Treating employees well will mean you have their support while things that need to be sorted a rectified.
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