Posts Tagged ‘Fawcett’

Breaking the mould – gender stereotyping

October 22, 2009

The problem: occupational segregation
The gender pay gap is caused by a range of factors, which can be categorised as either direct discrimination, where women are directly being paid less to do work of equal value or skill than their male counterparts (40%), or indirect discrimination, where more complex factors contribute to the difference in pay. One example of indirect discrimination is occupational segregation where women or men are concentrated in certain jobs. In turn, there is a tendency for female-dominated to be lower-paid, regardless of the skill level required. An example of a typically female-dominated job being paid, or valued, less than that of an equal or lower-skilled job is that people pay more to have their cars looked after than their children. Speech therapists (99% of whom are women) are paid less than clinical psychologists (the majority of whom are male) – an issue that was successfully challenged in the European courts in Enderby v Frenchay Health Authority.

Such a trend can also be seen with graduates. Although women make up the majority of graduates (59%) the areas of study they are concentrated in tend to be less well-paid industries, with men dominating in the more lucrative sectors, for example information technology, mathematics, science and engineering.

First impressions last – giving the right careers advice

A recent report by the Women and Work Commission highlighted the problem of gender-biased careers advice being given to schoolchildren under the age of 14, encouraging girls to try work experience placements or take up work in traditionally female areas of employment such as clerical and caring work and leading to girls being less likely to choose a “typically” male career. In the report, “Break gender stereotypes, give talent a chance!” the Commission called for children to be encouraged to find work most suited to their skills not gender, therefore allowing a fairer distribution of skills and talent across the economy.

The more segregation, the larger the pay gap
Statistics show that in countries where there is a high level of occupational segregation, there is higher overall pay inequality. Examining the gender pay gap within each sector itself is even more illuminating, with the largest gender pay gaps occurring within the sectors that are traditionally male-dominated, such as financial services, manufacturing and business services. In such sectors there is often a big difference between pay levels at the top and bottom of the pay scale, with men concentrated in the higher up positions.

Assessing value
So, although important, reducing job segregation is only part of the solution. Properly recognising the value of typically “female” jobs is also vital to closing the pay gap, and to ensuring that within all sectors, equal opportunity allows employees to rise to the higher ranks based on their abilities alone. Women dominate in the areas of health, education and the civil service – all vital roles but not among the higher-paid professions. Therefore it’s time that such sectors were remunerated in a way which fairly reflects the skills required for such positions, equal to other positions with similar skills.

See also the Fawcett report

Just below the surface: gender stereotyping, the silent barrier to equality in the modern workplace?

And our case study on Sweden’s example


Sweden – setting an example

October 19, 2009

Sweden has one of the highest levels of gender equality in the world. Despite continuing to experience  occupational segregation in its labour market (although it’s slowly declining), Sweden has managed to tackle some of the inequalities created by pay disparities both between, and within, employment sectors by introducing stronger legislation. So how has it done this?

Reporting on pay
The Act on Equality Between Men and Women, so-called “proactive” legislation,  that requires all employers to report annually on the gender statistics of their employees (however individuals’ pay information is still protected by privacy laws), which is then presented to trade unions. Such reports allow unions to take into account not only data regarding pay between employees in the same position but also across sectors, and generally it has increased transparency across the country. Not only that  – all firms with over 10 members of staff must draw up an action plan as to how they will achieve equal wages and equal opportunities for all of their staff.

In addition, employers are legally required to carry out a review of an employee’s salary once they have returned from full-time parental leave, as traditionally returners are notoriously less well-paid than colleagues who have not had time off.

Defining “equal value”
Often equal pay cases brought before the courts have failed when trying to establish that a position is of “equal value”. However, in 2004 the government decided to review the Equal Opportunities Act which redefined the term, “work of equal value”. Up until now it has often been argued that wages are higher for a man in a private-sector post (particularly relevant since most male-dominated positions are in the private sector ) compared to a public sector post, because it has a higher market value, with the result that male-dominated career are judged as having a higher market value.  Such evaluation has been termed “value discrimination” and is an issue that is being challenged in the courts.

See also

Equal Opportunities: Sweden paves the way, by Karin Alfredsson

Will the Equality Bill deliver for women? Lynne Featherstone says no

October 8, 2009

Below is a transcript of Lynne Featherstone MP’s speech at the fringe event organised by Fawcett and UNISON on ‘The Equality Bill – will it deliver for women?’ at the Liberal Democrats Party Conference in Bournemouth on 22nd September 2009.

“Will it deliver for woman? No! Not on your nelly! Women are the losers from the lost opportunity of the Equality Bill.

“This was literally a once in a lifetime chance to make a step change in women’s lives – but instead of taking the opportunity – perhaps the last opportunity a whole generation of Labour politicians will have to wield Parliamentary power – they’ve run scared of anyone who says “boo”, condemning women to hideously unequal pay for another generation.

“A small, very, very, small bit of good crept through on women’s pay – stopping employers from banning staff from talking about their pay – ending finally those bans that let discriminatory pay, wasteful pay be hidden away under clauses of legal secrecy.

“But that only frees up the hardiest and doughtiest of campaigners to fight that little bit more for more equal pay.

“There were three key amendments put forward by the Liberal Democrats, one jointly with two Labour back benchers on equal pay for the Bill – each on of which would have ensured that the move towards equal pay would come quicker and more widely and for everyone.

“Firstly we argued for mandatory pay audits – exposing the overall patterns of pay (though not individual salaries) to public scrutiny.

“It’s ironic that opponents of equal pay measures often argue that in the market place there can’t be discrimination – because those firms discriminating would be worse off.

“Yet when here was the opportunity to strengthen those market pressures – to give the market more information just as free market theorists tell us the markets need – where were those people? They made themselves very, very scarce from the debates!

“The Government’s proposal only suggests that the information be published voluntarily until at least the year 2013. As the Equal Pay Act was passed 39 years ago and women are still – on the latest Office of National Statistics figures – paid 17% less then men – we are sick of waiting – always jam .

“So instead of this weak measure, I and my colleagues argued that for reasonable sized firms and up – 100 employees would be a good cut-off – there should be mandatory audits with public results so women – or indeed men – could bring claims and avoid companies as they see fit.

“The Equality Commission has most recently been making some bullish noises about the size of the pay gap in the City – warning that if it doesn’t get its act together the Commission will have to use its statutory powers.

“And yet – the Commission flunked the test when the Bill was going through Parliament – for where was its lobbying and campaigning for effective equal pay measures in the Bill?

“The second key area which we argued for during the Bill’s passage – in addition to mandatory pay audits – was on loosening some of the ridiculously tight restrictions on legal action over equal pay.

“For women wanting to prove sexual discrimination in pay they have to be able to give a concrete example of someone else in a comparable job, being paid more. Now –often that exact comparator doesn’t exist. Many people do jobs where there isn’t someone else in a comparable role – and of the opposite gender.

“But no – Labour dug its heels in and insisted there must always be a direct comparator that you can use.

“And thirdly – there was the issue of allowing ‘representative action’. Currently, if a woman believes she has been discriminated against in terms of pay she can take the claim to an employment tribunal.

“But you have to be quite brave and assertive to take a claim forward – and the resources for tribunals etc are so inadequate that there is currently a backlog of women waiting – and waiting – and waiting.

“Thousands and thousands of women are held in this backlog – and women have actually died waiting for justice. The answer to this is simple – allow representative actions, which means one action can cover and so settle many situations – speeding up justice, taking the pressure off each individual and saving the system from breakdown.

“With representative action people such as a trade union or indeed the Equality Commission would be able to take action on behalf of a group of people in the same situation. But again the Government resisted this most obvious of moves forward.

“Three opportunities – three fails – from the Government – and the price paid in more years of unequal pay.”

Lynne Featherstone MP