Saturday, 31 May 2014

The Gender Pay Gap and Inequality

I recently completed my portfolio for my journalism course, which included an 'analysis' piece, which just means using facts and figures! The topic I chose to focus on is gender inequality, it's one of those subjects that doesn't get a lot of press but when you delve a little deeper into it, it's really surprising what you find. It's quite a long one, but I hope you enjoy it as much as I did writing it! Let me know what you think too :) 


It’s a subject know to get any woman’s blood boiling, but the gender equality issue isn’t going away any time soon. Lord Davies ‘Women on Boards’ 2014 report concluded that the number of women in executive roles is rising, but females are still proportionally outnumbered across the employment sector. So is this enough to create a culture change for the woman?

The FSTE100 has conventionally been dominated by men, but the recent increase of women on FSTE100 boards from 12.5% in 2011 to 20.7% in 2014 has sparked a national movement. By putting the imbalance of gender employment in the public eye, people are finally listening.

With the successful International Women’s Day held in March, leading females have spoken out on creating equality in the office. With the voice and power to influence millions, famous singer BeyoncĂ© recently said to the Telegraph: “We have to teach our boys the rules of equality and respect, so that as they grow up, gender equality becomes a natural way of life. And we have to teach our girls that they can reach as high as humanly possible."

Teaching the younger generation is only the beginning, but it’s improving the situation now that is vital in order to progress. The Government are continuing their voluntary approach with the FSTE100 and other businesses, but there are concerns that they may miss their 25% target of female executives in the FSTE100 by 2015.

However, this leads on to various stems encompassing the topical issues of gender equality in work and pay as a whole. As it stands, the average woman earns 15% less than men, equating to around £5,000 a year. Even more concerning is that this figure results in women earning a quarter of a million pounds less over their lifetimes and begrudgingly working for ‘free’ for two and a half months per year.

If you type ‘gender pay gap’ into any search engine, you’re met with thousands of articles, websites and even a Wikipedia page dedicated to the term. It’s an obvious issue which has stubbornly stuck around in the system, despite numerous government legislation and funds implemented to tackle it. But is it its stubborn and bull-headed nature that’s making it become the norm?

Figures from the Bank of England highlight that less than 20% of women work in their senior levels from Band 1-3, with them only outnumbering men by over 57% in senior clerical staff, research assistants and support staff. Not to subvert the stereotypical female ‘assistant’ profession, overall figures show that female staff members make up 43% of the Bank’s workforce, but how much of that is reflected in the unhealthy pay gap is debateable.

Traditionally known to be the breadwinners of the family, men aren’t expected to take long paternity breaks to have children, unlike women, so employers would argue that they are a more ‘reliable’ bet.  Hence following the pay-gap subject, where women are paid significantly less even in this modern day and age, where equality in race, gender and disability is still an ever prominent topic. In fact, the pay gap percentage actually rose by 0.1% from 2012 to 2013 to 19.7% in the UK, according to the Equal Pay Portal.

However there is evidence of the pay gap decreasing, mainly in professional and associate occupations where the percentage is at a historic low but it is still marginally high in trade professions such as plumbers and electricians. Similarly, depending on what age category you are in, your pay packet will be affected, as the average wage for the younger age bands was at an all-time low in 2013, but increased for workers aged between 40-49 years old.

The Highway Agency, a stereotypical all-male profession, employed 944 Road Traffic Officers as of January 2014, of which 834 are men and only 110 are females. Whereas, Channel 4’s percentage of women from its in-staff was just over 58% as of December 2013, with 35.5% of Head of Department positions occupied by females and 57% of Executive roles also held by them. Emphasising that a generalisation of women being marginally outnumbered in the workforce is dependent on what job title they hold.

Other media bodies, such as the British Broadcasting Channel, show that there is an even mix of gender in their ‘Journalism Job Family’. From 2008 to 2012 women have held more personal assistant and research positions than men, whereas they are greatly outnumbered as management accountants and in senior roles. Figures like this show that this maybe one of the many areas where gender divide is an issue. Controversially, statistics highlight that the 12 women in Senior Management roles at the BBC in 2012 were paid 4.5% more than the other 50 men, although the national broadcaster stresses that there are no set salary ranges for staff at this level.  

In comparison to the restrictions females reluctantly had over 100 years ago, the UK has evolved greatly to become the equal culture today. With the hundred year anniversary of World War One fast approaching, it’s important to understand how much leading female pioneers like Emily Davidson and Emmeline Pankhurst sacrificed for women, in gaining the right to vote and becoming more politicised and integrated into the workforce. Up to 800,000 females were employed in engineering workshops and 250,000 became land workers, as the beginning of WW1 and lack of male workers highlighted a substantial social change in gender equality.

Although the Government are aiming for a social transformation in relation to gender equality, the Cabinet isn’t the flawless example to compare to. Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, Gloria De Piero emphasises that "with just five women out of 33 in the cabinet, and women only making up 20% of government ministers, David Cameron and Nick Clegg have shut women's voices out of their own top table"; fairly controversial, but nonetheless accurate. However, the Home Office, a government department which deals with immigration and passports and counter-terrorism amongst others, has 14,448 women employed, which is a thousand more than their male counterparts.

Charities such as The Gender Trust and Equality Now have been campaigning for a change in the balance of the workforce in favour of women, as well as other ethnic minorities and disabled persons for many years. Despite the slow social movement of this issue, women are becoming more recognised in their employment fields and because of this it’s hoped that future generations won’t have to face the same problems any longer. 

As women now equate for over 50% of the total population in the UK and two thirds of them at working age now in employment, the highest figure in British history, why is this still an issue? The Government still has its target of reaching 25% of women on FSTE100 boards by 2015 and are creating legislation around child care and cash support for start-up businesses to benefit women now and in the future. But as Minister for Women and Equalities, Maria Miller, is perfectly justified in saying: "The workplace was designed by men for men. Women do not need special treatment; they just need a modernised workplace that gives them a level playing field." All that’s left to say is, men are you ready to play game?

If you've made it this far.... gold star to you!
Rhiannon xx
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1 comment:

  1. Fab article Rhiannon, it was really interesting! I find it crazy that there's still so much inequality in this day and age although at the same time it's encouraging that more is being said and done about it x

    Josie’s Journal

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