Women – time to down tools!

// 2 November 2010


Today is Equal Pay Day 2010. Despite the Equal Pay Act of 1970, full time working women on average are still paid less than full time working men by around 16%. This means, figuratively, that if the average man and woman both work a full year, the man gets paid for the full year whilst the woman’s last paycheck comes today.

Reasons for the paygap are complex and may differ from case to case, but include the following factors:

  • “women’s work” is undervalued compared with “men’s work” – so jobs of similar skills levels which are traditionally female (cleaning, caring) are paid less than similarly skilled jobs which are traditionally male (transportation, construction)
  • individual level direct and indirect discrimination still exists
  • women still pay a “motherhood penalty” in terms of career progression and salary
  • women are more likely to work part time, which is relatively undervalued by employers; and
  • the recession is making things worse – a higher proportion of the female workforce has been made redundant than the male workforce

The Fawcett Society is spearheading Equal Pay Day 2010, and is calling on the government to do three things to help:

  • Implement the Equalities Act 2010 in full, including forcing employers to reveal their gender pay gap if they haven’t done so by 2013
  • Extend the right to request flexible working to all employees (not just mothers) and work to change employer attitudes to part time and flexible working
  • Encourage shared parenting by promoting flexible parental leave

You can find out more about Equal Pay and how you can get involved at Fawcett’s website.

Comments From You

Maria // Posted 2 November 2010 at 2:42 pm

Agree with you . But i lets hope for the better future that women will be paid equal in coming years…

Lynne Miles // Posted 2 November 2010 at 3:43 pm

The eagle eyed amongst you may have noticed that Jess and I managed to cross post this topic within 3 minutes of each other earlier. Oops! Just for the record, we’ve taken down her post and left this one. So if you’re wondering what happened to it – that’s what!

Lindsey // Posted 2 November 2010 at 3:54 pm

Is any one else reading the Gender Delusion by Cordelia Fine? This reminds me of the part I just read, about how women are in (at least one) double bind in employment because if they act “like men” ie taking charge, being dominant, people won’t like them, but if they act “like women” being nice to everybody in an appropriately feminine manner then they are less likely to be seen as “management material” – yet another lose/lose situation :(

(PS what’s happened to your Amazon shop link? the image is just scrolling through random things)

Lynne Miles // Posted 2 November 2010 at 3:59 pm

Hi Lindsay

The shop looks OK to me, maybe it’s a browser thing? You can click on any of the thumbnails in the panel to the right hand side of this page and get taken through to the shop). Or just use this link directly: http://astore.amazon.co.uk/thfwo-21 and find more info about TFW’s Amazon shop here: /general/shop

Cycleboy // Posted 2 November 2010 at 4:01 pm

“Encourage shared parenting by promoting flexible parental leave”

I think this is possibly THE most important thing that needs to be achieved. I struggle to think of more than just a few women I’ve known who genuinely co-parent. Of course, I am not in a position to know whether the woman doing the lions share of parenting is because;

1) their partners are not pulling their weight

2) only the women get significant parental leave

3) women themselves want to ‘keep’ the children to themselves (nature or nurture?)

I fear that only if we have fully flexible parental leave will men even be in a position to consider taking a more active role in childcare.

Mind you, sharing the domestic chores BEFORE children come on the scene is quite another issue, but one that probably has as much bearing on how the children are looked after as anything parliament does.

coldharbour // Posted 2 November 2010 at 8:41 pm

“Agree with you . But i lets hope for the better future that women will be paid equal in coming years…”

Hopefully everyone will be paid equally in the coming years. You can’t abolish patriarchy while maintaining capitalism. A hammer not a band aid.

Shea // Posted 2 November 2010 at 9:47 pm

“Encourage shared parenting by promoting flexible parental leave”

“I think this is possibly THE most important thing that needs to be achieved.”

I disagree. The priority is equal pay full stop, whether or not the woman is a mother. This is an importnat aspect but it relies on the assumption that all women will be mothers and that is why they are paid less, which is patently false.

It is also deeply irritating because it is yet again women campaigning and doing the work so that men can enjoy the benefits ( as is the case with the Equality Act, the Sex Discrim Act etc). If men genuinely want to co-parent and avoid being penalised in the family courts (i.e child residency with the main carev- usually the woman) they should be fighting for this not relying on women to do it for them.

Lindsey // Posted 3 November 2010 at 12:18 pm


That’s weird, it’s back to normal again today, but yesterday was flicking between images of Troy and The Incredibles in a distracting and non-feminism related manner…

Cycleboy // Posted 3 November 2010 at 2:43 pm

“it relies on the assumption that all women will be mothers and that is why they are paid less,”

I don’t have any data to support my view, but I doubt that women are paid less because they MIGHT become pregnant (though, no doubt, there are a few examples of this happening). At least, in the ‘good old days’ at BT there was a pay structure that did not discriminate and you knew that as a, say, Level 2 engineer you would be getting basically the same as any other level 2, irrespective of sex, or race, for that matter.

That said, however, salary differences did emerge as people progressed through their working life. Again, it’s true that such differences could also be seen beginning to emerge within a few years of a person joining the company, but that they became MUCH greater when children came on the scene is beyond dispute.

“If men genuinely want to co-parent … they should be fighting for this not relying on women to do it for them.”

On this point, I whole-heartedly agree with you.

Lindsey // Posted 4 November 2010 at 9:02 am


Women might not be paid less because they might get pregnant, but there’s a chance they just won’t get hired in the first place, an idea supported by Alan Sugar:


(apologies for using Daily Fail as a reference)

Sheila // Posted 4 November 2010 at 10:01 am

Just a word of caution about co-parenting. The argument that they want to co-parent becomes a convenient one for abusive men on divorce to continue to try to have some kind of ongoing contact with their former partner. It is remarkable how some men become more solicitous parents at relationship break-up. Once they have found a new partner, the parenting issue (and underlying issue of continunig to abuse their former spouse) loses its attraction – leaving children even more hurt than they were before.

In principle, I support joint responsibility for care of children, but it has to be accepted that sometimes this isn’t in the children’s interests, and those interests should come first.

sianushka // Posted 4 November 2010 at 1:27 pm

cycleboy – i think the pay gap for women without children is around 10% but i can’t remember the source or the exact number.

but there is still a gender pay gap for childless women, which i assume is because it is assumed women ‘of childbearing age’ (13-55?) will have a child at some point – as alan sugar believes.

Charlotte Revely // Posted 5 November 2010 at 12:29 pm

The issue of equal pay is more complex than simply a judgement as to whether someone may have children (although I absolutely agree with equal childcare rights and paternity leave for men to even out the playing field). This issue is often cultural and can be from individuals who don’t ask for a pay rise because they lack the confidence or have picked up broader social messages about female worth, or from employers who think “nice girls don’t ask for more”.

In those companies and the public sector where salary scales are fixed the issue is often embedded with starting salary negotations – this happened to me and a number of my female colleagues. We discovered that two of our male colleagues recruited at the same time were on up to 20% higher salaries. What made this worse was the fact that at least two of us had tried to negotiate higher starting pay and had been told categorically that it wasn’t available. We reached a settlement in the end but without the support of our male colleague who had been willing to disclose this we would have got nowhere and would have suffered the effects from this for the rest of our careers and retirement. In the end 7 women were included in the claim and received pay rises up to £7k. This had nothing to do with child bearing as some women in this claim were childless, others had grown up children and at least two were past child bearing age at the time. I do think the children issue is used to somehow justify this discrimination but it is not the root cause. It also seems to me (as a childless woman) that it is ridiculous to assume someone will bring up the next generation of citizens and workers but without it impacting on current employers or society in any way. I see parenthood as a shared social responsibility – not in a kibbutz type way but just in the sense that we all benefit long term whether or not we choose to have children ourselves.

sally chappell // Posted 6 November 2010 at 12:11 pm

in workplaces considered more female environments, women still thrive where the male of the species are trodden down in the same way that females are in the male environment. this has been experienced personally within the food industry. my now husband who applied for a supervisory role in a department already predominantly female was brushed aside and I got the role! i will admit openly that i was lacking both the experience and ability to perform professionaly within the role at the time. my husband however was perfectly suited. to this day i still dont understand how i got the job. i constantly refered to my hubby for advice and guidance in the very beginning and without his valuable input i believe that the department would have suffered as a result. i have since left the post and recommended that my husband should move into the position. . the department has shown approximately 4% increase in productivity since my husband took over the role. may i add that we got together after i left the company. with regards to salary i received a small percentage more than he does now. so dispite inflation it appears the pay structure is biased. Although i do believe the reccession is partly to blame for this. i now work in a telemarketing role where performance is monitered and rewarded on a commission basis. there are several men working within the team (about 10%). every month the best performers are glorified/paraded on the bid board in the main room. rarely does a male make the grade.

to summarise, surely this demonstrates that women are better suited to some roles than males and visa versa. performance should be rewarded and usually is. it appears to me that society has preconceived opinions on which sex is more suitale to certain roles and this will only change when performance statistics show otherwise. i do believe though that if these boundries are to be crossed. . . we should PROVE IT!

I have 36tons of subsoil to be removed from my back garden. the hubby has shifted most of it as i can hardly penetrate the ground with the spade. well thats my excuse for making the tea while the husband breaks his back. Surelly things are equal enough. maybe before we start kicking off that we are down trodden and unfairly done to, we should consider the condition of our spines lol!!! wonder why women generally live longer. . i think things are equal enough.

Sheila // Posted 6 November 2010 at 1:15 pm

Charlotte, thanks for making this comment (and well done on your action). I think it divides and distracts feminists if they harbour the illusion that the differential between men’s and women’s pay is purely around the issue of women having the potential to have children.

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