In 1970 Harold Wilson’s Labour government passed the Equal Pay Act which prohibited men from being given more favourable pay and conditions of employment in comparison to a woman doing the same job. The Act, which came into force in 1975, is often cited as one of the crowning achievements of the Second Wave feminist movement in Britain; despite this legal prohibition since 1975, the sexist mindset is still prevalent in the private sector and is preventing women actually achieving pay equity. This manifestation of patriarchal oppression unfortunately doesn’t stop at a salary gap as there are other issues that women face on a daily basis that often go unreported.
The Chartered Management Institute in partnership with the firm XpertHR has exposed systematic bias in women as part of its 2015 National Management Salary Survey which on average means that female managers, according to the survey, is £30,612 whereas the salary of a male manager doing the equivalent job was £39,136, £8,254 higher. It must be said that this was a marginal improvement on 2014 where the gap was £9,069, but this year’s payment disparity is still a 22% difference and is the equivalent of female managers working unpaid for 57 days a year. At a higher level, female senior managers and/or directors are paid on average £123,756 whereas their male colleagues make just under £15,000 more at an average pay of £138,699; in terms of bonuses women are also discriminated against as male directors apparently receive an average bonus of £4,898 whereas women directors only receive £2,531.
The pay gap between men and women also significantly varies based on age, Women aged between 26 and 35 are paid 6% less than men in the same age group with this divide growing to 20% for women aged between 36 and 45, and rising even further to a 35% pay gap for women aged 46 to 60 when compared with their male colleagues; this last statistic is the same as women working 681 hours annually without pay. The report also found that the size of the organisation impacted upon the level of female workers’ pay and companies with between 250 and 999 employees have the largest gender pay gap of around 27%.
The government has said that they intend to legislate to compel companies with over 250 staff to publish information on the pay gap, however I would argue that, although this legislation is a step forward, the presence of trade unions would also be able to challenge the systemic bias against women; in this case women probably wouldn’t be involved as this is a survey about managers and directors but higher union membership would enable workers to collectively bargain for better wages for women.
In the private sector women are not only paid significantly less than men, but are also hugely under-represented in the very top jobs. A 2011 report by Lord Davies entitled Women on boards found that only 17% of the board directors of FTSE 100 companies are female, which is unjustifiably low considering that women make up 50.8% of the UK population. The Equal Opportunities Commission estimated in a 2005 report that around 30,000 women every year are sacked for being pregnant a 2009 report by the Fawcett Society estimated that around 440,000 women lose out on a job promotion or pay rise because they are pregnant; this is utterly unacceptable and it reveals a mindset prevalent in British society.
These few examples show how women are systematically discrimination against because of their gender, and that is just scratching the surface; I didn’t talk about sexual harassment, women in the media, maternity leave etc. We all need to lobby politicians and take direct action against employers that systematically discriminate against women. Stricter regulation of private industry to reduce the pay gap is required as well as political action to prevent this prejudice against women. These two biases in pay and boardroom representation must be addressed in order to create a private sector that values the contribution of women rather than perpetually stereotyping and sexualizing them. Tackling these two problems would be a significant step to fully stamp out systemic misogyny in modern Britain.