ARE WE STUCK WITH THE GENDER PAY GAP?
I can’t imagine that anyone would have been shocked by last week’s revelations that the BBC has a gender pay gap – I certainly wasn’t. What was shocking was the extent of the problem and the vast differences in salaries between men and women doing the same role.
Clare Balding and Gary Lineker was one of the biggest gaps with Clare falling into the £150,000-£199,000 category and Gary coming second in all of the highest earners at a whopping £1.75-£1.79 million! Gary was a professional footballer and I am sure that football will be one of the BBC’s most watched sports so I do get it; but still……….that is such a huge difference! As I don’t stay up to watch Match of the Day, I hardly ever see Gary on telly anyway, whereas Clare has fronted Royal Ascot, six Olympics, and presented BBC Sports Personality of the Year – ironically with Gary!
Let’s also look at Huw Edwards and Fiona Bruce. Both presenters have been at the BBC since the 1980’s and both have presented high profile and long running programmes. Yet Huw falls into the £550,000-£599,000 category and Fiona into the £350,000 – £399,000 category. Baffling!
The new laws on gender pay gap reporting are addressing the problem and increasing awareness – at least we hope that they will. There are currently no consequences for companies that don’t report, because Justine Greening states she would rather ‘work with businesses in partnership than force sanctions on them’ – an example of a woman being too soft perhaps? But we really do need to go much further.
One of the main reasons that women at the BBC, and in corporations across the globe, are paid less than the men is because they ask for less; and the BBC thought it was fine to continue to let this happen, I guess it’s only natural that you don’t try to pay someone more than what they ask for right? The reasons that women ask for less are complex, numerous and entrenched; one of these was highlighted by some casual sexism from the BBC’s Tom Chambers (Casualty actor) in his remarks that men earn higher salaries because they are the bread winners – you can really go off someone can’t you! There are millions of women out there who are the sole bread winners – should their families suffer and be worse off?
I think that many of the reasons that women ask for less are down to confidence and expectations. And these issues are deeply rooted and difficult to overcome. Men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications but women only apply if they meet all of them (Tara Sophia Mohr, Harvard Business Review). A study by Wiebke Bleidorn, over eight years and analysing data from men and women across 48 countries found that regardless of country or culture, men have higher self-esteem that women. So can we ever close the gender pay gap?
A good place to start would be with our children and the increasingly ridiculous notions of what men and women should be. A quick look at the comic shelf with my son and daughter gives him options of adventure, exploration and activity while she is faced with fake make-up, plastic jewellery and hair accessories. The new Lego aimed at girls is pink and purple and has beauty salons, gymkhanas and princesses in castles – my sister and I were obsessed with Lego when we were growing up thirty years ago without any of these concessions to ‘girls’. To my horror my daughter’s class have been learning about Cinderella!! There is a woman without much ambition for herself! (Yes, I did complain and the school didn’t understand my concerns!).
The gender pay gap already exists at Apprenticeship level where women earn, on average £2000 less than men (Guardian, March 2017). We need to encourage more women into higher paid apprenticeships and away from the caring, cleaning and cashiering options – and also encourage employers to address the value of these professions and ensure pay is fair. We already have severe skills shortages in engineering and construction so by encouraging more girls to enter these professions we can address the gender pay gap and these deficits together.
Let’s address confidence and expectations with girls at school and get them speaking out and pushing themselves forward. When a girl is being assertive she can be labelled and chastised for “being bossy” a label not often attached to boys. This behaviour leads to a reticence to be assertive in later life – a key skill for negotiating salary perhaps??
And please….….let’s stop telling our girls they can be a Princess and focusing on how they look – there’s a big wide world out there for them to explore and make their own.
Credit: Gemma Saunders