No Pay Day

Today is what the Fawcett Society is terming Women's No Pay Day. The pay gap between women and men working full-time is equivalent to men getting paid all year but women working for nothing from October 30th to year end.

And this is despite the fact that women do better at school than men!

And this is not a fringe issue, either. 71% of women think the government should do something about it (that's a lot of voters), over 50% of people would be more likely to vote for a politician who believed in equal pay.

What always depresses me about this debate is the fact the the first response of so many people is to try and undermine the, you get from the BBC's have your say comment box today (I really must stop going there) arguments along the lines of:
  • Women work fewer hours (no, the stats are per hour)
  • Women choose to go off and have children and so it's fine
  • Women don't do as hard a jobs..women are secretaries, men are managers...etc, etc, etc
  • Women are better at looking after children, it's biology so deal with it!!
It seems impossible for the pay gap to be accepted as a fact. It seems we are still having to argue the case that there is an issue and always dealing with its denial rather than being able to debate and understand why it is so and what can be done.

To those who think that the pay gap is just a manipulation of statistics I ask: what is it do you think the campaign is about? I mean, do you think the Fawcett Society, and all of us who recognise a pay gap, are trying to do is trick our employers into actually paying us more than men for less work? Do you really think that government ministers and opposition front benchers would be going on Woman's Hour to talk about it if it was just a silly misreading of the numbers? After all, it's not as if we haven't got all sorts of other discrimination to go off and campaign about!!

I say government ministers and opposition front benchers but I am not referring, of course, to Liberal Democrats; our website and press releases have been silent about it all day. I don't know why; I think we find it a difficult topic to address as a party.

But still, there's a lot of voters out there interested in this....and what are we doing? Having a good old debate about Trident!!

The reasons behind the pay gap are many and complex and they are economic, social and political. I would like to get beyond the statistic and start looking into why we have this gap. Why if girls do so well in school as they paid, in London in particular, nearly 3/4 of that of their male counterparts? Why are traditionally feminine roles, that when assessed are equal in terms of skills, experience and responsibility to many traditionally masculine jobs, often low paid? For example, you are paid more to look after cars than to look after children!! Why are women who haven't taken time off to have children still paid less than their male equivilants?

The discrimination taking place here isn't the easy to identify and I'm not sure that legislation is the answer; it is a lot more subtle, a lot harder to pin down, easy to dismiss and more difficult to resolve. The answers are as much about what goes on in the home as it is about what goes on in the work place.

But then perhaps this is all part of my cunning plan to actually earn more than my male equivalents in the work place and I'm making a lot of fuss about nothing?


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