What is going on at the Guardian?

// 17 June 2009

Orlanda Ward does not think much of Tim Worstall’s musings on how there is “no gender pay gap”

Now I understand that these are testing times, and papers are doing all they can to increase traffic and therefore advertising revenues on their sites, but it’s starting to get ridiculous.

Amongst Cif’s offerings today is an utterly incoherent rant on the gender pay-gap by Tim Worstall.

“There is no gender pay gap in the UK, there is only a mothers’ pay gap,” he bellows.

Worstall’s basic argument is that women are not paid less because they are women, but because they have kids, and that’s ok because actually they are compensated in the form of child benefit and family tax credits. So that’s all fine then. Problem solved.

What’s even more alarming is that despite providing a link to the Home Office figures which clearly contradict his every word, he receives rapturous applause on the comments thread.

So I just thought I’d take a deep breath and calmly deploy a little logic to highlight a few of the gaping holes in Tim’s argument.

1. I hate to state the obvious, but Tim actually admits that there is a gender pay gap. He actually admits the existence of the thing which he flatly denies the existence of. It’s not a great start really.

2. Even if we give him the benefit of the doubt, and imagine it were the case that the gender pay gap was limited to mothers, this still includes the vast majority of women. Then given that it doesn’t apply to fathers, i.e. the vast majority of men, it doesn’t seem entirely beyond the realms of reasonable thought to conceive of this in terms of gender.

3. Tim’s rough figures on the costs of children are comically under-estimated at £2,500 p/a. I’d be highly surprised if that stretched to the annual sum spent on school fees spent by many in his social circle, (let alone the nanny).

4. He seems to have rather misunderstood the purpose of child benefit if he believes it is to compensate the mother for lost earnings due to childrearing. That’s why it’s called child benefit Tim, not mothers’ benefit.

5. Even if it was to compensate the mother, it doesn’t meet his pathetically low estimate for loss of earnings, let alone a more realistic figure. It’s £20 per week for the first child, and £13.20 for each child after that. Despite being a fellow at the Adam Smith institute, basic arithmetic just doesn’t seem to be Tim’s thing.

6. Working families tax credits are neither for the purpose of compensating parents, nor sufficient to cover loss of earnings due to childrearing. Perhaps Tim would like to wade through the gory details here.

While I could go on, I’ll stop there before things get out of hand.

If you’d like more of Tim’s wisdom on the gender pay-gap, check out one of his lovely blog posts here.

Comments From You

Jennifer Drew // Posted 17 June 2009 at 6:08 pm

When it comes to male individuals such as Tim Worstall’s clearly disconnected and illogical rant about women not earning less than men, ensuring one’s economic facts are true is apparently irrelevant.

Even worse the individuals who have written applauding Worstall on his deliberate mis-representation also believe rationality and economic facts are irrelevant. I wonder why?

Could it be because any attempt at challenging widespread perception women unlike men only work for peanuts, is because many women apparently have a higher paid male living within their family units.

Worstall has indeed indulged in an incoherent and badly written rant.

Working families tax credits are supposed to help female and/or male parents whose salaries are below what is considered to be ‘the living wage.’ Without these tax credits even more working female and male parents would be caught in a catch 22 situation. Either they endure poverty whilst claiming benefits, or they endure poverty because their paid salaries are below the living wage.

headey // Posted 17 June 2009 at 6:42 pm

I confess I haven’t read the article referred to as yet, but a couple of thoughts do come to mind.

A friend used to work for BT, which did a study into salaries. BT were (at least they were when I was there) scrupulously fair in the salaries they started graduates on. However, the study discovered that a gap had begun to form within the first year. Unfortunately, I don’t know whether they discovered exactly why or what they did about it.

That said, I do think there is something in the “mothers” pay gap. Of course, it will not (in general) apply to fathers, as they seldom take a few years out of paid employment. I did (though not for family reasons) and my salary is now well behind that of my contemporaries. And, I cannot blame that on my gender.

So, take a few years out and you will fall behind in the salary ladder, whatever your sex. Now, whether you think that structures should be put into place to allow women to ‘keep their hand in’ while they look after children is quite a different argument. Of course, any such structures would need to be available to both sexes, so then men would perhaps be more inclined to contemplate sharing the caring role.

Qubit // Posted 17 June 2009 at 8:59 pm

We seem to live in a society which thinks very short term and in such a society people will oppose ideas such as maternity leave because unless an employee is sitting at their desk, working from 8-6 they are worthless.

In a long term view not disadvantaging the employee will have significant advantages for the firm. Most firms target their products at the general population and having management that understands this and reflects the population can boost sales. Similarly parents learn skills from child care that they can then improve their performance. Not forgetting a large proportion of the population are parents so a firm which produces goods or services with a child positive attitude is likely to be appealing and even make none parents more comfortable. Someone who is highly involved in child care can see issues other people may miss.

Treating employees well leads to commitment which means you retain staff rather than having to train staff up from a low level again. Similarly staff who feel helped out and like they can get honest advice will do the best to help out the firm, timing maternity leave to best suit the business if possible, being in some contact when they are away and making sure everything is prepared before they go. Similarly staff who feel good about paternal leave will return more relaxed and enthusiastic with more creativity and new ideas.

Both men and women would benefit from ideas like on site child care or allowing employees with individual offices to bring the children in. I’d even propose ‘parental offices’ which feature a play pen and are used by new parents from after maternity leave until the child is old enough for child care. Many firms can allow people to work from home with no disadvantage to themselves. Some firms can allow flexible working hours with no disadvantage and sometimes it can even be beneficial as it will allow working with Islamic countries who have weekends on Thursday and Friday or countries within different time zones.

We are a cynical society but any good firm will not look at the disadvantages of employing primary parents (mainly mothers) and I think emphasizing the positives that can come to the firm from flexible and part time working is an important policy. Let firms know what they can get from mothers and increase flexibility so fathers can take responsibility for children easier and everyone benefits.

polly styrene // Posted 17 June 2009 at 9:16 pm

I dabble in CiF occasionally, but generally speaking it’s horrendously bad for one’s brain, as it’s full of unsane MRA’s. I think we really need a ‘CiF – just say no’ campaign.

Tim Worstall // Posted 18 June 2009 at 7:49 am

“Tim’s rough figures on the costs of children are comically under-estimated at £2,500 p/a. I’d be highly surprised if that stretched to the annual sum spent on school fees spent by many in his social circle, (let alone the nanny).”

Eh? Nowhere do I claim that is the cost of a child. What I do say is that that is, on average, the pay gap endured by hte mother of a child. Which is indeed what the statistics tell us.

Nicely insulting BTW. You have no idea whether my social circle uses private schooling or nannies.

Just for those who don’t bother to read the article: for single childless women there is no pay gap. For married women there is and that pay gap gets larger the greater the number of children.

It is indeed thus possible to say that there is not gender pay gap, rather a mothers’ one.

Laura // Posted 18 June 2009 at 9:07 am

Do those who rail against women who expect to be treated fairly by employers when they have children not realise that those very employers NEED people to reproduce in order that they will have people to employ in the future? It makes perfect sense to remunerate both men and women for time taken off to have children, and to ensure they are not undervalued when they return, as they are performing a vital function for the economy and continuation of our society. Framing having children as an individual choice for which parents – no, women – should pay the price is incredibly short-sighted.

JenniferRuth // Posted 18 June 2009 at 9:10 am

Ugh – this is why I avoid reading the comments at the Guardian. Honestly, they are more depressing than the ones over at the Daily Mail a lot of the time.

The reason why so many men deny the pay gap and put the blame solely at the feet of mothers is because they don’t want things to change. They are happy with how things are – their girlfriends/wives at home and them at work. They don’t want to take a active role in rearing their children. They want their children and their freedom and the only way that this can be bought is by oppressing women. If they really cared then they would be out their campaigning for a fair amount of paternity leave instead of denying that there is any problem at all.

The whole system is weighted to make sure that women have no choice a lot of the time but to leave their jobs for long periods when they have children. Men are obviously heavily discriminated against when it comes to being a parent, but the only time you see large groups of them complaining/trying to change the system is when they are asked to be paid money in child support.

Look at how the pay gap has closed in Scandinavian countries where the parental leave available is more equal between men and women (I believe that The F Word wrote an excellent article or blog post on this some weeks ago).

I’m sorry if this sounds a bit man-bashing but it makes me so angry because I know there must be so many men out there who would kill to be able to take more leave and see more of their children. Men like Tim Worstall are the ones creating circular arguments that prevent them from gaining their full parental rights.

You do not stop being a full human being when you become a mother.

sianmarie // Posted 18 June 2009 at 10:39 am

ugh, cif. what a waste of web space! i posted this comment:

“i’m sorry but this article doesn’t make sense,

where do you get this figure of £20,000 from? really?

the fact is, the pay gap exists, and saying it is for women or saying it is for mothers is just playing silly games with semantics, especially when you consider that employers still (alan sugar as one example) would prefer to ask women of “child bearing age” whether they’re planning on having a baby and using that against them (and that is something that has been reported in this paper). infertility excepted, all women of working age are potential mothers, and employers can’t tell by looking whether a women is infertile or doesn’t want children, meaning this mother pay gap discrimination has the possibility to effect all women, hence the pay gap is about women.

i find it incredible that a male journalist has the gall to tell women that we aren’t affected by a pay gap that he will not be affected by, and to basically say we’re making it up – that it doesn’t affect women, it affects mothers.

the best way to reduce the pay gap is to follow the scandinavian model and share materinity leave equally between the mother and father (or in the case of single sex couples, the mothers/fathers) so that both parents take a break from work and both parents have the chance to bond with the baby. this would radically change the way we see parenthood, the way we see who is responsibel for childcare, and employers would no longer see the potential of babies as a reason for discreet or outright discrimination against women.”

although i think i typo-ed on the figure, oops!

there is such a terrifying strain of women hating on cif. for example, the comments in response to anything tanya gold writes. i don’t tend to enjoy her articles, not my preferred journalism style, but the vitriol directed at her is outstanding! it isn’t like she is the only writer on the site who uses that jokey chatty style! it’s nasty, the response she gets. and those terrible terrible blogs on street harassment a year ago, with commenters basically caling women liars for complaining about street harrassment – apparently as the commenters had never harrassed a woman then street harrassment doesn’t exist. well, i tend not to murder people, but i’m pretty sure people do it. let alone the evil comments cath elliot is bombarded with every time she writes anything, or when someone writes on rape the majority of the comments relate to false accusations.

i am always so shocked by the nastiness and anti feminist statements on the “liberal” paper, but i can only assume it is like when i comment on daily mail articles (to complain at their despicable views), so the daily mail view readers comment on the guardian in the same fashion. the problem is, i am totally addicted to seeing what nonsense they come up with next – not good for my blood pressure!!

sianmarie // Posted 18 June 2009 at 10:48 am

sorry, just started to read the comments and found this gem:

“a gender pay gap is the direct consequence of the feminist ideal that men and women are equally capable of doing every job. Perhaps the gender pay gap is due to women being crap at their jobs”

FFS! it has 20 recommendations and no one has reported it as abuse – do people really believe this? what the hell? can you imagine that being said about any other discriminated group (not to play oppression olympics but really!)

plus the whole load of it’s a lie, including people saying men and women earn the same in their workplace – this misses the point and also is hard to prove, i know i don’t go around the office asking people how much they earn…RAGE!!

thank goodness for the f word and fawcett and feminist networks, makes me feel less alone…

Posie Rider // Posted 18 June 2009 at 10:56 am

Did you know in 1997 when there was a landslide victory for female MPs there was a shooting range in Westminster and not a cresh? Trust me, if we had proportional representation the problem of maternity vs parental cover would resolve itself and better child care facilitites would become mandatory. For problems that arise in Westminster demand that we sort Westminster out first.

And i must say Guest Blogger i think its a little rue to lay into poor Tim’s nanny. I had a nanny growing up and I don’t think it’s given me a superiority complex.

lou // Posted 18 June 2009 at 11:30 am


I am afraid I have to agree with Mark Easton-the numbers aren’t presented properly, showing the lower gap for non-parents, that women earn more in part-time jobs than men and then explaining the problems with pressures on women to look after the kids/lack of understanding and support for men who want to look after kids as the issue. Instead the largest possible number for a gender gap is published as though it is the whole story, as though people are paying women less just for being women.

I agree it’s a gender gap-but it needs putting in context and all the figures showing. This alarms me. I am feminist, but I don’t want to be represented by people who use cheap PR statistics tricks….

Laura // Posted 18 June 2009 at 11:35 am

@ lou – I’ll hunt down the link when I’ve got time, but 40% of the gender pay gap is made up of direct discrimination against women who do the same job as men. So while I agree that it isn’t just a simple sexist discrimination-based gap, that we definitely need to address the lack of support for men who want to raise children, as well as some men’s lack of support for the women who undertake the majority of childcare, there’s definitely an issue with sexism here.

Tim Worstall // Posted 18 June 2009 at 11:36 am

“Look at how the pay gap has closed in Scandinavian countries where the parental leave available is more equal between men and women (I believe that The F Word wrote an excellent article or blog post on this some weeks ago).”

Umm, you mean places like Sweden where the gender pay gap is (from memory) somewhere between 15 and 18%? You mean that meaning of “closed”?

Kit // Posted 18 June 2009 at 11:38 am

@Qubit it sounds so wonderful and really what we’re in need of, but not possible while we still have the notion of “Human Resources”…

Orlanda // Posted 18 June 2009 at 12:40 pm

Thanks for responding Tim. I think it’s fair to say that we’ve both been a bit fast and loose with our terms here, so let’s try to clarify.

Firstly this is a complex issue. Sorry to be a spoilsport but as you well know, it’s hardly going to be summed up within a 500 odd word blog post without at least some simplification and distortion. Your impetus to ‘just keep things simple’ when (as the stats show) things just aren’t that simple, is never going to lead you to a robust conclusion. Grossly simplifying an important issue, while claiming you “devoutly desire” it to be rectified suggests a significant lack of commitment to your cause.

The evidence you cite clearly spells out the multifarious reasons for, and the undeniable existence of, a pay gap that can be reliably delineated along gendered lines:

“… the gender pay gap varies depending on an individual’s circumstances. For example, the number of dependent children, company size and type of occupation are major factors in the difference between men and women’s earnings.”

It then elaborates further, noting the influence of these factors:

■ human capital differences – differences in educational levels and work experience

■ part-time working – the pay difference between full-time and part-time is large. As part-time working is concentrated among women, this is a major contributor to the gender pay gap travel patterns – on average, women spend less time commuting than men

■ occupational segregation – women’s employment is highly concentrated by occupation, with female-dominated occupations often being the lowest paid workplace segregation – high concentrations of female employees are associated with relatively low rates of pay.

For example: While a woman who works in the professions may be unlikely to earn less than her male colleagues until she becomes a mother, there are significant differences in the situation of blue-collar workers. It is well documented that male dominated sectors (such as construction/ transport) are far better paid than female dominated sectors, (such as caring) despite the fact that the latter often requires at least equal qualification and is of at least equal value to the wider community.

Therefore the vast numbers of women who work in these areas are experiencing a pay gap which is not related to motherhood.

In your original post, you say:

“… just to keep things simple let’s peg the average income that will be affected by having children at £20,000 a year. A nice round number (and we’ll stick with rounding numbers). Thus we expect a woman who has one child to be forgoing about £2,500 a year or £50 a week. With three children it’s £70 a week. So if we were to subsidise mothers by this much (and other appropriate sums for other numbers of children) then we would have abolished the mothers’ pay gap.”

Yet the evidence you quote says:

“According to data published by the Equal Opportunities Commission (now part of the Commission for Equality and Human Rights), ‘the average woman working full-time could lose out on £330,000, in comparison with men’s

earnings, over the course of her working life’”

Your on-the-back-of-a-napkin average of £2,500 a year makes no sense in comparison to this number. Even if the Commission for Equality and Human rights had overestimated the amount threefold, your calculation still wouldn’t come anywhere near it.

We could get into a massive tit-for-tat over this and that is precisely the problem with trying to distill an issue like this into a couple of pithy paragraphs. Even so, I fail to see how your estimate of “the pay gap endured by the mother of the child,” (rather than the cost of the child) has any genuine basis in the factual evidence which you provide.

The numbers are however irrelevant in a sense: as I stated in my original post and as you fail to refute in your response, Child Benefit and Family Tax Credits have nothing whatsoever to do with remunerating mothers for lost earnings due to motherhood.

Furthermore, even if these benefits were for that purpose, they would be of no use to the many women who are forced to endure the gender pay gap before they have children: the single childless women who do equal work of equal value to men of similar levels of education, but are penalised by the continued differential in financial remuneration for work in male and female dominated sectors respectively.

It is possible to say that “there is not a gender pay gap, rather than a mothers’ one,” but it’s simply not true; and deep down, I think you know that as well as I do.

Finally, I sincerely apologise for inferring that your social circle uses private schooling and nannies. Where I’m from that’s perfectly normal, in fact some of my best friends had nannies and private schools.

Sarah // Posted 18 June 2009 at 12:43 pm

The ‘mother’s pay gap’ is still, by definition a gender gap. Otherwise it would be a ‘parent’s pay gap’.

Tim Worstall // Posted 18 June 2009 at 1:08 pm

“summed up within a 500 odd word blog post”

Indeed, the same will be true of 600 words at CiF.

OK, human capital differences. They certainly exist and amongst older women they are in favour of men, amongst the younger generation, just out of university, they are in favour of women. This isn’t the motherhood effect (or at least not solely), it’s a result of a huge change in our society over the past 30 -40 years. The majority of degrees now go to women, the majority of entrants to the professions are now women.

Which is one of the problems with the use of pay averages for all women in calculating the pay gap or course. I’ve said again and again in other places that while I absolutely agree that there was indeed direct discrimination in decades gone by I think that, at least at the level of human capital formation, this is now a solved problem.

Part time working. Yes, I’m aware that more women choose part time working than men. However, everyone (on average at least, both men and women) earns less per hour for working part time as compared to full time. Even the Women at Work Commission agreed that this was rational (ie, not discriminatory) for it costs more to employ part time workers.

I’m well aware of occupational segregation.

I’m also aware of those studies which show that men are pushier about pay rises, that (some) women deliberately choose not to climb the career ladder so as to have more flexibility about time and committments.

I’m also aware that many male dominated industries are more dangerous….we would expect to see a danger premium in pay. It’s also true that the male dominated sectors (construction being a good example) are risker in terms of being fired. As an example, the male unemployment rate in the US is a good 2% (ie, 9% or so rather than 7% in the last I saw) above the female. We’d expect, again, to see a wage premium for the insecurity of a job.

I’ve not tried to disassemble the EOC number of 330,000, but I have a feeling that it’s done with the same legerdemain that Harman just got rapped over the knuckles for. Using the both part and full time gap, and using mean rather than median. That’s only a guess by the way.

It was precisely to avoid such that I used (and said that I was using) an imagined 20k. That is somewhere between median individual income and mean income.

Now, to the larger issue. Is there a pay gap between men and women? On average, across all those in the labour force, yes.

Excellent, so now we’d like to know why there is one. The most important question being, is this a result of discrimination? (What an economist would call taste discrimination, ie, deliberately, and illegally under current law, paying women less just because they are women).

I can see no evidence of this at all.

I can see all of the differences that you mention, and I can see others which I’ve alluded to above.

But once you’ve gone through all of the different, entirely rational (ie, not discrimination) reasons as to why there might be a pay gap there’s no room for one caused by discrimination.

Part time/full time, occupational segregation, human capital differences at the higher age cohorts, deliberate choices about careers, male negotiating techniques and so on down the whole long list, explain all of the observed pay gap.

There’s just no more room for there to be discrimination.

And, yes, it is the having of children which is the greatest of all of these influences.

Now, whether we want to do anything about all of this is entirely a different matter. I am of course an evil right winger and would simly let matters rest where they are. But my real and major point (and this infuses all of my work) is that until we identify, correctly, why an observed problem occurs, we cannot hope to deal with it in any rational manner.

The pay gap is not because bosses illegally discriminate against female workers. So actions to prevent what is not happening are not going to have any effect. Much better that we find out what really is causing the problem and then, if we wish to, try to craft policies which will remedy it.

lisa // Posted 18 June 2009 at 1:27 pm

What about mothers who choose lower paid work because it brings other benefits eg shorter and/or flexible hours, social and/or health benefits and once they leave work they leave the work behind – no homework and no head space wasted on it ?

I used to work as a lawyer and on average only 1 out of 5 of my female colleagues still work as lawyers because they chose to leave and have a more human existence. Some left even before having children but most would NEVER, not for all the money in the world, go back to it as a mother.

Focusing only on statistics and salaries in this general way does not help young women make informed choices about their path in life. Most of my female peers would not have qualified as lawyers but chosen other more flexible, more rewarding but lower paid fields.

BTW Changing the legal profession isn’t an option because it is the clients who demand 24/7 legal advice and there will always be a competitor willing to give the client what the client wants. Whether that competitor is a mother who chooses to spend time with clients and not her children or a woman who doesn’t have children but chooses to spend time with her clients instead of walking her dog or a man with children who chooses to spend time with his clients instead, is irrelevant. It’s the modern world of work and it’s tough for fathers, mothers and non-parents but that’s why they get paid high salaries – to take calls on Xmas Day, to only get 10 days holiday a year and even then to go on holiday with business partners, to eat, sleep, even f.@k for work. Those who have other interests in life (often children but not always) choose to balance their paid work with other activities. I’m surprised the pay gap isn’t more to be honest.

Qubit // Posted 18 June 2009 at 1:54 pm

How does your argument that clients want 24/7 legal advice go against flexible working? Of course you could have one person working 24/7 and they would sleep in the small amount of time when nobody is calling them. Eventually they would lose efficiency and motivation. You do seem to imply any life outside of a job is wrong, even a hobby of watching an hour tv show a week.

However other than that it seems to suggest flexible working would be great. Two or three full time employees working days and nights (2 would actually be illegal at the moment due to the number of hrs they’d work but that might change) would allow an efficient and alert 24 hr service.

When I have heard people talk about balancing a career and children it has been done by both parties working unsociable hours so there is always someone with the children when they aren’t at school. This makes me wonder whether maybe parents would be more keen on unsociable hours as it allowed them to balance commitments. While we talk about work life balance, we have to remember those without kids tend to want to be off at the same time as friends which means evenings and weekends. Those with kids have different needs so they can make things work, this is a work force that would want what others don’t. This actually removes the need for paying extra for anti-social hours.

I know people moan that in an office of mothers they can’t take half term as a holiday. However why would you want to? Prices tend to go up and places get busier so queues are longer. It strikes me as best for non-parents to take holiday when the children are at school. We shouldn’t list things that don’t hurt as a disadvantage. Also if you really want half term off book it early then your collegues won’t be allowed it and you can force them to pay for child care. In most firms it is first come, first served and if your hobby is making others life hard it is easy to do.

Butterflywings // Posted 18 June 2009 at 2:02 pm

Lou – it’s not a ‘cheap PR statistics’ trick.

The figure Harman quoted of 23% was for ALL employees, full- and part-time.

Just comparing full-time employees, it is 13%.

And what is Tim Worstall doing here, being rude and patronising?

His claim doesn’t make sense – for those with no children the pay gap is still 8%.

And working mothers being paid less *is* still discrimination. No-one said that discrimination is some men in a mens’ club smoking cigars and chuckling as they deliberately pay women less.

It is more insidious. It is in the assumptions, as Tim charmingly makers, that *all* women want to have children. It is in simply valuing women’s work less than that of men doing the same job. And if Tim is aware of occupational segregation, does he not wonder *why* it exists?

Men do not have to ‘choose’ between work and career. In fact, research shows that men typically benefit in their careers from becoming fathers. What is needed, as others have pointed out, is more equal maternity and paternity leave arrangements.

Oh and: child benefit is £20 a week (for the first child). People on £20k would not be entitled to child tax credits. So child benefit does not compensate for the pay gap.

Oops, Tim. Tut, manipulating figures like that.

Anne Onne // Posted 18 June 2009 at 2:08 pm

The pay gap is not because bosses illegally discriminate against female workers. So actions to prevent what is not happening are not going to have any effect.

I’d like to try them all the same. Properly, of course. That would mean better support for all parents. When we’ve had pay auditing enforced, then we can see if there is discrimination or not.

Except some employers admit to discriminating against women on the basis of potential further motherhood or flat out unequal pay. So the idea that there is no discrimination falls apart when employers themselves admit to discriminating.

It would be wrong to claim that active discrimination on the strict basis of gender is the sole reason that women are, on the whole paid less than men for similar jobs, or even the same jobs. As we know, this is more complex, especially where child care is concerned. However, given individual employers, firms and even the government themselves admitting that pay inequality is a problem, as well as many women (even childfree ones) being aware that they ARE being paid less than male colleagues for the same job, it’s being disingenuous to pretend that discrimination can’t be involved because there are complicated factors at play.

Given the complexity of the problem, it’s too convenient to pretend that everything can be explained away and there isn’t an issue, when there is no reason there wouldn’t be.

Besides, knowing what people and businesses are like, why would a firm not discriminate if they could get away with it? They would be saving money, after all. Isn’t that the reason they decided that it would be too much to look into pay equality right now, because of the credit crunch, and the poor suffering companies needing to keep their costs down?

There’s nothing currently forcing companies to reveal what they pay male and female employees for similar jobs. They may also have many handy excuses (she took a few months out to have a baby, etc) , and lots of people don’t believe that they could be discriminating. Even if they are caught and successfully prosecuted, they would lose less than they would have saved through paying many female employees less. It would be naive, given society’s tendency towards trying to make a buck, and given historical context, to assume that all employers would never dream of paying a woman less than a man (or simply thinking she’s not as good) when they would get away with it most of the time.

Also given that society pressures women to bear the burden of childcare, any discrimination or inflexibility towards parents becomes a gender problem because it disproportionately affects women. Not all discrimination is as clear cut as slurs and flat out discrimination to one’s face.

Orlanda // Posted 18 June 2009 at 2:19 pm

Thanks Tim for admitting that there is a gender pay gap. Perhaps you’d like to retract some of your original statements in the Guardian, now that you’ve done so here.

Just to keep clarifying:

– Discrimination at the level of human capital formation is unfortunately not a solved problem: When a Tory councillor decides it’s ok to pay men more than women for public sector work in that area, due to occupational segregation, that’s direct discrimination.

– Women working in gender segregated areas make this decision to work part time in a very different context to their male counterparts precisely because a male partner is likely to be paid more.

– The choice to work part time for flexibility of “time and commitments,” it seems fair to assume, refers essential services such as childrearing, caring and domestic labour. Services which it is so obvious that women are expected to perform, I can hardly bear the banality of pointing it out.

– While “danger premium” may be applicable in a tiny fraction of male-dominated blue-collar occupations, it does neither accounts for nor excuses the gender pay gap in these areas. Perhaps a House of Commons Trade & Industry Committee report on the issue might elucidate things a little further:

-We still don’t seem to have got any closer to an explanation of the £2,500 p/a figure.

-Consistently paying workers in male-dominated sectors more than those in female-dominated sectors is discriminatory against women.

-Paying part-time workers less than full time workers, when women make the choice to work part time in very different circumstances to those that men do, is discriminatory against women.

-Continuing to expect men and women to work in the same way that men did when they could reliably expect to have an unpaid woman (wife) to take responsibility for all domestic and childcare duties, is discriminatory against women.

This problem has been observed and identified, which even you admit. The contents of the article which you wrote in yesterday’s Guardian were not a rational response to the available evidence. They were precisely the kind of thinking which hinders a rational approach to it.

Laura // Posted 18 June 2009 at 2:24 pm

When we’ve had pay auditing enforced, then we can see if there is discrimination or not.

Exactly, Anne Onne.

Tim Worstall // Posted 18 June 2009 at 2:49 pm

“Thanks Tim for admitting that there is a gender pay gap.”

Oh come on, you can do better than that. I’ve stated, as the original article did, that there is a “pay gap”. Not that there is a “gender pay gap”.

My claim is that the “pay gap” is a “mothers’ pay gap” not a “gender pay gap”. Stick to the point would you, rather than forcing admissions into my mouth.

Orlanda // Posted 18 June 2009 at 2:57 pm

“There is no gender pay gap in the UK, there is only a mothers’ pay gap,” Tim Worstall, June 17th 2009

“Is there a pay gap between men and women? On average, across all those in the labour force, yes.” Tim Worstal, June 18th 2009

Is there or isn’t there?

It was you that wanted to keep things simple Tim.

Tamasine // Posted 18 June 2009 at 3:08 pm

‘My claim is that the “pay gap” is a “mothers’ pay gap” not a “gender pay gap”. Stick to the point would you, rather than forcing admissions into my mouth.’

I’m intrigued Tim, please can you explain to me exactly how a ‘mothers’ pay gap’ is NOT a ‘gender pay gap’. The differences in pay gaps are directly related to a woman’s ability and perceived need to have children; therefore inherently gendered.

Kit // Posted 18 June 2009 at 3:11 pm

@Tim “My claim is that the “pay gap” is a “mothers’ pay gap” not a “gender pay gap”.”

Men aren’t mothers, women are. You’re not saying there is a “fathers’ pay gap” or a “parents’ pay gap” just that there is a “mothers’ pay gap” – how is that not a “gender pay gap”?

Tim Worstall // Posted 18 June 2009 at 3:25 pm

“just that there is a “mothers’ pay gap” – how is that not a “gender pay gap”?”

Phew, you’re a tough crowd.

A pay gap that was contingent solely upon gender would be a gender pay gap. A pay gap that was contingent upon being a mother would be a mothers’ pay gap.

That being a mother is a subset of being a member of one gender doesn’t change that. The cause is the motherhood, not the gender.

Which is why, as the original piece pointed out, members of the gender who do not have children do not have the pay gap.

Laura // Posted 18 June 2009 at 3:38 pm

Tim – The point is that mothers are discriminated against as parents – or have a harder time of things in the workplace, if you don’t like the word discrimination – because they are female. Male parents are not being paid less or facing the same problems as female parents, because society in general views childcare as a woman’s job, is set up so that it is easier for women to look after children than men and values traditionally male-dominated work more than traditionally female dominated work so that it often makes more financial sense the woman to take time off work than the man. This has got to change in order to allow women – and men – to make real choices about work and childcare, choices that are not dependent on their gender.

JenniferRuth // Posted 18 June 2009 at 3:41 pm

Tim, what you are saying is blinkered. If the cause of the pay gap had nothing to do with gender then we would see a pay gap arise for men when they become fathers. But we don’t. Hence, it is gendered.

The fact this gap effects mothers is a huge part of what makes the pay gap gendered.

But even despite this, even when women have no children the gap is still 8%!

Tamasine // Posted 18 June 2009 at 3:53 pm

‘members of the gender who do not have children do not have the pay gap’

So, just going back to those ONS stats, for clarification, and as Butterflywings already posted, the pay gap for those women without children is still 8%. Would you still like to claim that there isn’t a gender based pay gap? Perhaps you could refer back to Orlanda’s comments?

Prlanda // Posted 18 June 2009 at 3:55 pm

Gender-segregated employment provides clear evidence of a pay gap contingent on gender and not contingent on motherhood, and thus proves the absolute falsehood of your claim that there is no gender pay gap.

Anna // Posted 18 June 2009 at 4:09 pm

“members of the gender who do not have children do not have the pay gap”

But it’s been made clear that this is not the case. Women-dominated work is paid less and valued less than male-dominated work, regardless of whether these women have children or not. This has been demonstrated throughout all the comments.

Jo // Posted 18 June 2009 at 4:09 pm

OMG. Just read article and some of the comments. Am very frustrated. Just because some of the pay gap is not caused by direct discrimination does not mean that it is ok that there is a pay gap and inequality. All the major political parties have proposals that involve making parental leave more flexible and equal but Mandelsson has delayed implementing Labour’s plans. Boo! I have written more about that here


I know that the comments on the guardian are usually pretty depressing but I can’t remember reading such bad ones for a long time. There is a huge number of comments complaining that it’s a woman’s choice if she has children and loses pay with absolutely no mention of the father or men’s choices. And apparently it is up to women should be responsible and only have children if they are married! Do these people think that men have no say or part in creating children or parenting? Further down the thread there were actually people advocating banning poor people. Some of them were actually basing their arguments on the wish for a better ‘gene pool’. Aargh!Have tried to release some of my rage by excercising my finger on the ‘report abuse’ button. Was able to do this alot. Orlanda’s step by step dismantling of Tim’s argument and other sensible commentators here have also helped the rage subside a bit. Thank you f-word. As SianMarie said- its good to feel you’re not alone.

JenniferRuth // Posted 18 June 2009 at 4:38 pm

Tim tries to explain away the 8% gap for those without dependents in the comments section of the article:

“Women who are married or cohabiting but do not yet have children will, in at least some cases, be organising their lives as they plan to have them and so on.”

So, I guess the pay gap can be explained as the “Mother’s and Women Who May Become Mother’s” pay gap. Which is just about every woman.

Hannah // Posted 18 June 2009 at 4:46 pm

I was really glad when I saw this title because I had a big rant at a helpless friend yesterday about how downhill the guardian comment section has gone recently, in terms of general sympathy towards feminism. See the commenters and sometimes bloggers on recent posts about childless women, Malthusianism, Cameron Diaz, replacing the cabinet wih women, and so on. The actual blog post here doesn’t address the general decline at guardian online hq, but I hadn’t read this column so thanks for giving me a heads-up on another terrible post at CiF to add to my next rant. I haven’t read the lengthy comments on here so don’t know if someone’s already made my first point, sorry if they have and I’m being repetitive.

Lara // Posted 18 June 2009 at 5:25 pm

I can’t believe that a man who appears to be so articulate has contradicted himself so many times!

“So, I guess the pay gap can be explained as the “Mother’s and Women Who May Become Mother’s” pay gap. Which is just about every woman.”

Yes I think that Tim means that any woman without a certificate of sterilization deserves to be paid less than her male counterpart. Oh but wait she might still adopt!

It’s funny because I was so baffled by people voting BNP, but you say to yourself they are ignorant, uneducated etc etc and this guy has all the facts in front of him and *still* can’t admit he got it wrong.

Makes me want to throw something.

Aimee // Posted 19 June 2009 at 9:05 am

I have to agree with everyone. A ‘mother’s pay gap’ IS a gender pay gap, because it implies that because the onus is on women to be responsible for children, they should then suffer financially, in comparison to men, because of it.

Sabre // Posted 19 June 2009 at 10:53 am

Although I don’t agree with most of what Tim Worstall has said I do think it’s good that he is engaging in this discussion on the F Word.

Mobot // Posted 19 June 2009 at 1:50 pm

Ooh this is so irritating! I really think that Tim Worstall is trying to see things ‘objectively’ and is more careless with his use of language and figures than he is misogynistic or right wing, so it makes sense to keep blows above the belt here. But the comment about being told by a man that the gender pay gap doesn’t exist has it spot on – that’s what really stings here. Bailing out of debate about the causes of pay gaps – because it’s apparently not the principles that matter here, it’s the numbers – just seems lazy and dismissive of real life struggles that women, mothers or not, face every day as a result of gendered assumptions about childcare and careers.

mary // Posted 19 June 2009 at 3:47 pm

single childless women there is no pay gap. For married women there is and that pay gap gets larger the greater the number of children. It is indeed thus possible to say that there is not gender pay gap, rather a mothers’ one.

Who knew that “married women” magically become mothers! Bizarre.

I do think there is something to be said about the interplay of men’s choices and women’s choices in creating the pay gap, though. I know dozens of university-educated women who have chosen sectors and jobs which give them flexible working and quality of life in return for a lower salary. Back when I was working in the NHS, I knew plenty of non-university-educated women who’d made comparable choices. Most of these women were earning about 2/3 of what their partners were earning, and most of them will absolutely stand by their choice to accept a lower salary for work that is perceived as more rewarding or less stressful. As long as the marriage survives, women as well as men get a good deal out of this situation, and I don’t think you can talk about the pay gap without talking about the positive choices that women make to earn less.

Tim Worstall // Posted 19 June 2009 at 5:10 pm

“Tim Worstall is trying to see things ‘objectively’ and is more careless with his use of language and figures than he is misogynistic or right wing”

Oooooh, but I am right wing (although not misogybistic), I’m a Fellow at the Adam Smith Institute, we who worship at the altar of St Maggie!

In fact, I’m so right wing that I’m not even a Conservative, I’m a Classical Liberal.

I’m not sure I’ve been “carelss” with the numbers, rather very interested in trying to show something about the underlying reality by presenting them in a very different manner.

In fact, I’m so right wing I’d absolutely agree with you that this “a result of gendered assumptions about childcare” is indeed the cause of the pay gap that we’re all talking about.

We might then go on to disagree about whether this is a good or a bad thing. It seems that the majority of women who do have a choice to raise their own children intensively or not to do so quite happily choose to do so, so as that classical liberal type I think that’s just great. “Liberal” is about insisting that people should have the liberty to do as they want, after all.

But even without that part where we disagree, sure, I agree, that most childcare (and all child bearing of course) is done by women is indeed the cause of the pay gap. And that this division of labour is a feature (whether a desired one or not) of our current society also seems to me to be blindingly obvious. And I don’t think we’re going to get rid of the pay gap unless and until there is a change in that division of labour.

Which, of course, is why I called it a mothers’ pay gap, not a gender one.

But the reason I’m not marching in the streets about this is because I think that the majority are perfectly content with this division of labour, along with all of its side effects. And For those who don’t like it, there’s no law stating that a man can’t stay home while the children are young. Sure, family income might take a hit, but it does if the mother stays home. There’s nothing except the fact that most men (and, dare I say it, most women) don’t in fact want things to work that way stopping the system from switching.

Oh, and just to show what a heartless uncaring right winger I really am, I’d limit maternity leave to 2 months (each, father and mother). Want more than that, either male or female, then quit your job and come back when you’re ready and find another one.

Suzanne // Posted 19 June 2009 at 6:46 pm

I can’t believe this troll gets so much attention here. It’s ridiculous. And if you read bits of his webpage (hard going because it’s complete dross) you’ll see he’s desperate for attention. Pathetic.

Qubit // Posted 19 June 2009 at 6:50 pm

I have to admit I have never met a man who wants to stay home and look after the kids and so it seems as they come out of the woman’s body it will be their responsibility.

I think this is why I know more men than women who want children. Certainly I would be more interested in children if I knew somebody else would do most of the work but that is selfish.

In fact when I once mentioned to my boyfriend I liked the idea if having a househusband he said I didn’t want a relationship but a maid. I am afraid that in that context he was right. A desire to have someone to take care of that side of life is a very selfish thing.

Aimee // Posted 19 June 2009 at 10:19 pm

Tim, the term ‘mother’ is inextricably linked with gender, with all the connotations therein… how can a ‘mother’s’ pay gap not be a gender pay gap?

Out of interest, why would you limit maternity and paternity leave to two months? Do you know any nurseries that offer childcare for 2 month old babies? Do you not think that parents should be entitled to spend more than two months with their newborn child?

Jehenna // Posted 20 June 2009 at 2:35 am

Tim, the point you keep missing is this.

You say this relates only to mothers because it is the impact of childcare. But the paygap exists for women who have not had children, and who may not have children. So being a mother cannot be the criteria.

Perhaps being a ‘potential mother’ is the problem. But in this case, this includes all women. If this was the case, to continue to call it a ‘mother’s pay gap’ is to ignore that it relates to the whole gender of women.

Men can become fathers who stay at home and bring up their children. But there is no pay penalty associated with this, and certainly such a penalty doesn’t apply to all men on the grounds that they might have children at some point.

Something that applies only to women, and not to men, even though both have the capacity to experience the criteria used to explain the difference (parenthood), is gendered discrimination.

Perhaps you could consider some of the assumptions you are making and ask yourself – why is it that most women stay home to look after children?

Perhaps it’s because they are not paid as well as their male partners and the family will be better financially if the less well-paid partner takes the time off?

I think in this case you are positioning something which is a symptom, as the cause of the issue. If both parties were paid the same, and no pay gap existed, then there would be no financial incentive for the man to continue working and the woman to stay at home. Arguing that this causes the pay gap is looking at it the wrong way round.

Why is taking care of children (mothering, teaching, childcare) gendered female, and also paid terribly badly?

Because those things which we consider ‘women’s work’ are not valued in our society. (cleaning, caring for others) This is not because everyone working in those professions can get pregnant, but because we don’t want to pay people for a service we can essentially get for free from wives and girlfriends, daughters and sisters.

polly styrene // Posted 20 June 2009 at 3:30 am

Did I just fall into a coma for a hundred years and miss some amazing scientific advance? It appears not – so maybe Tim Worstall can explain how many men are mothers.

Hazel // Posted 20 June 2009 at 1:42 pm

“I have to admit I have never met a man who wants to stay home and look after the kids”

I have!

mary // Posted 20 June 2009 at 6:00 pm

One of the reasons why some middle-class women choose to become the main carers of their children is because by the point they have children in their late twenties, the paygap has already opened

We might then go on to disagree about whether this is a good or a bad thing.

The Guardian reported this January that in the event of divorce, men’s income rises by a third and women’s income drops by a fifth and remains low for many years. This is regardless of whether or not she has children, but the study found that the difference between fathers and mothers is more dramatic. Only 31% of separated mothers receive maintenance from the fathers of their children.


It’s all very well saying that if a family chooses to adopt the traditional model of male breadwinner and female carer, that’s their business. But it’s a gamble, because if the marriage breaks down, the mother and children are at higher risk of being left in poverty. And I would have thought that even if you’re a Classic Liberal, that was something that you’d think matters to society.

If you think children being raised in poverty is a problem, then you need to think that the paygap is a problem, whether you frame it as a gender paygap or a mothers’ paygap.

damagedoor // Posted 20 June 2009 at 7:37 pm

Jehenna –

“You say this relates only to mothers because it is the impact of childcare. But the paygap exists for women who have not had children, and who may not have children. So being a mother cannot be the criteria.”

But does it exist for women who have not had children? According to the report Tim links to, the full-time pay gap between genders is undetectable until about the age of 34. (In fact, on average, it is in favour of women). From that point on, it rises. Overall, the pay gap exists – but that’s because an average is being taken across all men and women in full-time work, and the set of women includes the large sub-set of mothers, who are generally paid substantially less. Especially those mothers who are older in terms of the survey, because they may have benefitted less from changing social conditions and expectations, education, legislation, and so on.

That doesn’t mean any individual woman without children these days will be paid 8% less, before or after the age of 34. It just means enough mothers are to bring the average down for women as a whole.

Which is gendered in terms of expectations around child-care, but I think Tim is right – in terms of the statistics – that it’s best described as a mothers’ pay gap rather than a gender pay gap.

Feminist Avatar // Posted 21 June 2009 at 2:02 pm

Tim Worstall is the press officer for UKIP.

Anna // Posted 21 June 2009 at 4:59 pm

Haha – I didn’t realise that. Explains a lot, though..

Charlotte Revely // Posted 21 June 2009 at 5:17 pm

I’m aware that this anecdotal evidence but as a union rep I took a case on equal pay for 8 women (inc me) about 5 years ago. In the most extreme case there was an £8k p.a. pay gap for doing exactly the same job and recruited at exactly the same time with better or comparable performance in the five years following appointment. Half of us were childless and half had families – it made no difference, we had all been discriminated against when negotiating our pay (and this was in the public sector where pay scales are meant to be equal). Women are discriminated against because they are women and in pay terms it is essentially because we are conditioned not to ask, or as in my case, when you do ask it is considered not the done thing for a woman. In the case of working mothers I suspect it comes down an assumption that you should be grateful for being allowed back in the workplace at all. If the pay gap were actually to do with having children surely it would be a parent gap rather than a mother gap. That said this guy is clearly a total idiot and I don’t know why the Guardian are even giving him space to publish his ridiculous poison. The only true thing on his blog appears to be the fact that he has failed at everything – nuff said.

Tim Worstall // Posted 21 June 2009 at 5:42 pm

“And I would have thought that even if you’re a Classic Liberal, that was something that you’d think matters to society.”

I don’t think you understand what a Classical Liberal is. It’s someone who quite literally does not give a damn for “society”. The concern is for the maximum possible liberty and freedom for each individual, tempered only by their actions not depriving others of the possibility to enjoy said maximal liberty and freedom.

What “society” wants in terms of voting for redistribution say, in limiting the freedoms of others to love, marry, have sex wth who they wish, have their children when and how they wish, raise them and educate them as they wish (subject of course to bans on child abuse etc), earn their living as they wish, ingest whatever drugs they wish, I’m for freedom and the desires and strictures of society can go hang.

JenniferRuth // Posted 22 June 2009 at 9:05 am

At this point in the conversation, I think that this cartoon is apropos:


Kate // Posted 22 June 2009 at 11:40 am

Ahh, the FWord has been cif-ified, am I going to have to stop reading here too?

Tim, if it quacks like a gender pay gap, and walks like a gender pay gap, then it is a bloody gender pay gap. It starts before women have children and intensifies after that. Although I see from your delightful responses on CIF that you think this is because women are “preparing for children,” goodness, I never realised I was that well organised.

And you can stick your two months maternity leave and your “liberal” idea that women choose this up your arse to be honest. What I want is a situation where I can combine being a parent with having a job that values my contribution, with affordable childcare, the realisation that the world is not going to fall apart if I take maternity leave, and a move away from the ridiculous culture of presentism we have in the UK.

Rosalind // Posted 22 June 2009 at 12:33 pm

I was going to comment earlier but didn’t want to indulge the troll.

There is a pay gap for women and there are a variety of studies and reports that support this. It is knowledge so common sense that I no longer register when I read supporting evidence which makes it difficult when people come up with crap like the above. The first thing I can think of off hand is the Destinations of Leavers of Higher Education survey which shows that wages of UK graduates in 2007 after six months averaged at £20,000 for men and £18,000 for women. No doubt that some of these individuals are parents but very very few would have had any sort of career break as it can be assumed that their careers have only just begun.

The majority of women who have just graduated from university are not mothers and yet they are earning less than equivalent men. This is a gender pay gap.

Butterflywings // Posted 22 June 2009 at 2:18 pm

Qubit – I don’t know if it’s selfish, I’d quite like a house-husband!

Seriously, though, I don’t disagree.

I do think if one partner is happy to stay at home, look after the kids and do the housework, and the other has a high-powered job that involves working all hours to support that other person, that’s fair enough. It’s about division of labour, and childcare and housework is most definitely work. I would like to see more stay at home dads, yes.

That said, in reality this model, whichever gender stays home, is often unrealistic (unless one partner has a very higly paid job) as two incomes are needed. Also, it’s not a recipe for happiness for many people.

I would also like to see more dads go part-time while their kids are very young, or you know, work full-time but do their 38 hours a week and no more, and be unashamed of saying, yes, I am leaving to see my kid in the school play now.

If both partners work, both should also definitely contribute to the maintenance of the home. That’s fair. More men need to step up, too; often ‘having it all’ for women turns into an exhausting marathon as women not only work a full day at the office but are expected to do most of the childcare and housework when they come home, too.

(And then the man expects thanks for bothering to take out the rubbish in the ad break, when she’s cooked dinner, cleared it up and put the kids to bed! OK, not saying ALL men do this, but I’ve heard it from friends enouugh!)

THAT is why there is a gender pay gap, it’s called the second shift.

And the nuclear family is actually quite a recent invention, historically speaking, not to mention a western one. In most of the world, ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ – grandparents, other relatives, and the community in general get involved in childcare. If we could recapture that, rather than some 50s ideal nuclear family, that would go a long way to address the second shift issue, I think.

(Phew that turned into a rant!)

damagedoor // Posted 22 June 2009 at 8:02 pm

Charlotte –

But the situation you describe is obviously wrong and, more to the point, surely against existing law? Isn’t it?

I’m not meaning – genuinely – to “cif-ify” the place. But I honestly don’t get it. Anyone who does the same job should be paid the same. The statistics in the report Tim links to in his original article are clear enough that there’s no entirely-gender-based pay gap. Women earn, on average, more than men up to the age of 34. Do you not think the pay gap after that is skewed by mothers? Is there any evidence that single, childless women earn less than single, childless men at any age when looked at overall? If so, is that legal?

It certainly isn’t right that having children disproportionately impact on women in the workplace. But it’s something to be negotiated within a particular couple, surely? What’s the solution?

polly styrene // Posted 22 June 2009 at 9:07 pm

Most men over the age of 34 will be fathers, most women will be mothers.

Thus if men who are fathers over 34 earn more than women who are mothers, that’s a gender based pay gap. Most people in this age group will be parents but on average men will earn more. IE it is a PAY GAP that is related to GENDER.

What bit of this do folks not understand?

mary // Posted 25 June 2009 at 11:24 am

Oh well, we’re talking to someone who is quite happy to say that he doesn’t give a damn about kids being raised in poverty. At that point, we are so far apart, there’s no point talking.

Bye bye!

Cathryn Setz // Posted 29 June 2009 at 3:34 pm

As “someone who quite literally does not give a damn for “society”” – I wonder why Tim Worstall wrote this “article” in the first place.

How we raise children, share ideas about parenthood, ensure paygaps are questioned, impliment policy, demand accurate figures and nuanced investigation – what else are these dialogues if not taking part within a “society”?

Libertarian individualism is historically the preserve of those who benefit from the industry, capital and economic structure that consigns “society” to drudgery and allows them the blinkered time and space to proclaim the wonders of “ingesting whatever drugs they wish,” of being good consumers at the altar of Selfdom.

I wonder if the scraggy bag of street-muck-brick-dust Tim Worstall’s brand of “freedom” is hawking has indeed allowed the scare-quoted “society” to “go hang” already. What’s the market value, Tim?

We’re only a tough crowd because many of us believe in the things the “depth” of your philosophy rejects. Your posturing campaign of self-publicity, in truth cares not one fig for mothers, still less for inequality. How could you?

Tim Worstall // Posted 11 July 2009 at 12:19 pm

I realise that this is long after the conversation has ended but there’s a report out today from the Fawcett Society.


Essentially, that there is indeed a mothers’ pay gap and that this explains most of the perceived gender pay gap.

i.e., I was right.

JenniferRuth // Posted 11 July 2009 at 5:14 pm

Oh dear Tim, it was nice of you to come and waggle your penis for us but you are still being too thick-headed to take in what people on this thread have said many times now.

Women ARE mothers. Women don’t become genderless when they become mothers. Discriminating against mothers IS discriminating against women.

If fathers faced this kind of wage gap then I think we could all agree that the wage gap was perpetuated by becoming a parent (which I still wouldn’t think was right). But they don’t. Ergo – gender pay gap.

Holly Combe // Posted 11 July 2009 at 5:43 pm

Thanks Jennifer-Ruth. Exactly what I was thinking but more succinctly put. Let’s see what Fawcett have to say about this shall we?…

Tim Worstall // Posted 11 July 2009 at 5:48 pm

“Women ARE mothers.”


Some women are mothers. Others are not.

Those who are face a pay gap. Those who are not not so much. That’s actually the point that is being made by both me and the Fawcett Society.

“Oh dear Tim, it was nice of you to come and waggle your penis for us”

Way to go in encouraging polite debate. Well done.

Holly Combe // Posted 11 July 2009 at 6:12 pm

Okay, Tim, I think you’re basically just splitting hairs but, yes, it would have been more accurate for Jennifer-Ruth to say “Mothers ARE women”. With the exception of trans men giving birth, the people who give birth are women. I would say that makes discrimination against them an issue for all women. For example, if some of us choose not to have children, I think it should surely be because we genuinely don’t want to, not because we fear it might ruin our careers.

All the more reason for better paternity pay so that everyone can take on a decent share of the family caretaking responsibilities, I’d say.

JenniferRuth // Posted 11 July 2009 at 8:36 pm

What Holly said.

I think, Tim, you are being disingenuous. Of course not all women are mothers. But all mothers are women (with few exceptions as pointed out by Holly). Therefore this makes the wage gap gender based. I read through the Fawcett Society report – it is evident that they understand this.

Also, I’m sorry that my harsh words wounded your pride.

polly styrene // Posted 11 July 2009 at 8:59 pm

Ok women, you know what to do, give up having babies. Sure the human race will die out, but it will die out, finally, with equal pay for men and women.

Butterflywings // Posted 13 July 2009 at 12:59 pm

‘Oh dear Tim, it was nice of you to come and waggle your penis for us’.

*snorts* ha ha ha!

Yeah ‘I was right nah nah nah’ is not really debate, is it…?

‘If fathers faced this kind of wage gap then I think we could all agree that the wage gap was perpetuated by becoming a parent (which I still wouldn’t think was right). But they don’t. Ergo – gender pay gap.’ Exactly.

Qubit // Posted 13 July 2009 at 3:55 pm

Having no children means women are equal to men so in full time work can earn on average 94% of the average male salary. That means the pay gap is only 6% as long as we don’t dare get pregnant. Aren’t women lucky I bet men would love to have rights like that!

I think the point where everyone disagrees with you Tim is people here tend to think women should be allowed to have a career and be a mother without the kids holding them back. I don’t think this is possible and I doubt it ever will be but I would like a world where it is. Heck, I’d like a world where I could expect my partner to do the majority of the child care but that is just selfish isn’t it.

Lisa Lainey Brown // Posted 16 July 2009 at 4:08 pm

I think it is fairly outrageous that (regardless of what you may think about his opinions) crude sexual insults regarding genitalia are being made. It would be a massive understatement to say that would not be well tolerated if it was Tim making such comments. Not to mention the phoney apology about ‘wounding pride’, which horrendously panders to gender stereotyping.

We should be striving for absolute equality, and not humour any misandry or crude sexual insults.

Holly Combe // Posted 16 July 2009 at 5:14 pm

Lisa: In retrospect, I do appreciate where you’re coming from and would like to address your point, as it was me who approved the comment in question.

You’re right that we should be striving for absolute equality and I agree that humouring misandry is obviously not a good way to do that. However, I also think we need to be careful that we don’t end up crossing over from the perfectly reasonable principle of doing-as-we-would-be-done-by to reserving extra lashings of anger for anyone who insults a man.

Along with this, I would say it’s important to distinguish between someone using metaphorical penis-waggling to suggest another commenter is being macho and someone making more literal references to a person’s body or sexuality.

In terms of whether it “would be a massive understatement” to say it would not be well tolerated if it was Tim making such comments, I don’t think we can assume this. I can only speak for myself here but can honestly say I would have absolutely no problem whatsoever with publishing a comment where a woman was told she was “waving her fanny” at people, metaphorically speaking, just the same as I probably wouldn’t publish a comment that made celebratory violent references to cutting men’s willies off.

Lisa Lainey Brown // Posted 16 July 2009 at 7:35 pm


Thanks – I appreciate your comments and am inclined to agree with you

polly styrene // Posted 16 July 2009 at 8:49 pm

According to the BBC website…


research showed that women who worked full-time for 10 years after entering the labour market were still earning about 12% less than their male counterparts.

……this could be “because employers think women are very likely to take time out so they are less likely to promote them”;

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