Equal pay, a necessity
Figures released by the Chartered Management Institute claim that 57% of company executives are now female, leading undoubtedly to many thinking that gender based equality in the workplace is a problem solved. However these figures are not as straightforward as they appear. The same research by the CMI concludes that only 40% are departmental heads, with less than 1 in 4 holding the position of chief executive. Research produced by The Guardian condemns big business further, claiming that executive committees of the top 50 FTSE companies have a lowly 14% female representation.
For the select few women in these top positions, it would be understandable to expect that salaries would directly mirror that of a male counterpart, however that is not the case. The CMI figures show that on average, male company executives earn £400,000 more in basic salary over the course of a career than females doing the same job, with larger bonuses to boot.
It seems absurd that in November 2012 we are still debating how to tackle pay equality in the United Kingdom. Over forty years since the Equal Pay Act of 1970, a bill put in place to protect and support the victims of discriminatory pay, we find ourselves in a position where being born male still appears to give us the divine right to earn more money. Continued research into salaries will help to redress the balance and apply pressure to employers. But action from the government is a necessity, starting with the implementation of a more stringent procedure to check and sanction companies who breach the Equal Pay Act.
Trying to pinpoint the reasons for the continued pay inequality brings up some worrying trends. Among the most common is a belief that all female workers will want maternity leave, and will ultimately cost businesses thousands in maternity pay. This coupled with the outdated view that women want to, and should, stay at home and raise the child once born creates a stigma unfairly attached to all prospective female employees.
The announcement from Nick Clegg re maternity leave changes is undoubtedly a positive step. From 2015 parents will decide how to divide up the 12 month parental leave allocation, but to change the views of society there has to be enforced regulations. Simply allowing for men to take more time off will not necessarily result in paternity allowances being used. In Norway, such a system has been in place for the past 35 years and still only around 17% of men take more than their 10 week ‘use or lose’ allowance. However over 90% of men do use their 10 week ‘use or lose’ allowance.
To enforce real change, both parents should receive 4 months paid leave each, with the final set of 4 months to be divided between them as they see fit. The 4 months allocated to each parent should not be transferrable, and if they decide not to take that time off, it is lost.
Our economy loses out year after year due to talented and innovative women being overlooked for top jobs. By strictly enforcing the Equal Pay Act, and enacting equal maternity and paternity paid leave, we can make a huge difference in a relatively short space of time.