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What’s the deal with gender pay inequality?

gender inequality and what you can do about it

This is a question I ponder often. I genuinely don’t understand this culture of paying women less to do the same job as their male counterparts. It’s 2018 for goodness sake! Yes, yes I know it’s more complex than that, hence this blog post…

The debate flared up again recently when the BBC’s China Editor Carrie Gracie resigned after finding out that her male counterparts were earning a considerable amount more than her – for doing the same job. Carrie was earning £135,000 a year, however the male US editor earns between £200,000 – £249,000 and the male Middle East editor earns between £150,000 – £199,000. Hmm. She was offered a £45,000 pay raise but this would still leave her earning less than them. So she stood her ground and stuck to her principles and resigned. The BBC responded saying, “fairness in pay” was “vital” to the corporation.” Sure sounds like it…

What are the reasons for disparity in pay?

I don’t have the answers (I’m no expert) but my guess would be that many employers pay women less because women go on maternity leave and have families. It’s women (in most cases) who have to drop everything if the nursery/school calls saying their child is ill and needs to be collected. It’s women (again, in most cases) who would assume the role of carer if a family member needed it. That’s why I think women are paid less, because it’s assumed they’ll need time off.

But it’s not just about pay inequality

Pay inequality is an issue but it’s not the only issue. The issue is much bigger than this. Why does our society put less value on women when it comes to business? It’s assumed that many women choose to be in more junior, lower paid or part time roles because they prioritise their family over their career but this is often not the case. As children, there is so much gender stereotyping: boys grow up to be doctors, lawyers and even the President; girls grow up to be secretaries, teachers or nurses. From a young age we’re conditioning girls to think they can’t be the CEO of a FTSE 100 company. They can’t be a neurosurgeon. They can’t be President. They can’t be a mother AND be successful.

Yes, more and more women are ‘breaking the glass ceiling’ but there aren’t enough of them in the public eye.

So, what can you do about it?

  • Know your rights – the Equal Pay Act of 1970 (which was updated in 2010) gives both women and men the right to equal pay for equal work. Therefore, it is illegal to be paid less than a colleague who does the same work as you.
  • Understand the gender pay gap – whilst it’s illegal to pay someone less than a colleague who is doing the same work, based on gender, it’s not illegal to have a gender gap between average pay. How it’s calculated is by taking all men’s salaries in a business and all women’s salaries and then calculating the difference between them as a percentage, which is then the gender pay gap. The ONS reported in October 2017 that the gender pay gap is 9.1%, meaning on average, men earn 9.1% more than women. As most CEO and senior leaderships roles are taken up by men (which have high salaries) and more of the entry level or lower roles are fulfilled by women or part-time roles fulfilled by women, the gender pay gap seems to be justified by businesses. But that’s not a justification. It’s a systemic, societal problem.
  • Call out gender stereotyping – When you see brands advertising gender stereotyped products, call them out! The more we complain publicly and cause a ‘fuss’, the more we make others conscious of  the message this is sending to our children. Collectively we can get brands to stop perpetuating harmful stereotypes.

  • Join the Women’s Equality Party – if you really want to campaign against inequality and make a difference, join the Women’s Equality Party. Men are most welcome too.
  • Be your own boss – now this one is a bit left-field (and won’t be for everyone) but if you want to be in charge of your time and what you earn, be your own boss. I went freelance just over two years ago and I’ve earned almost 50% more each year than when I was in full time employment. Plus, I have flexibility. If you’re considering it, here are my ten top tips for going freelance.

Inequality (in all areas) is everyone’s problem. Together, we can make a difference.

Let's talk about gender pay inequality and what you can do about it


Kirsty Marrins

Reader, writer, occasional runner, travel lover.



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