27 June, 2008

Gender pay gap - not what you might think

This statistic surprised and worried me.
The really interesting comparison isn't between women and men but between single, childless women and men. If you compare women who aren't married or cohabiting with men who aren't married or cohabiting, you know what? The pay gap goes the other way. Hourly pay for the women is £8.82; for men £8.72. (Times)
I don't think the reason I was surprised would astound you; so, why am I concerned?

Well, the case for equal pay has been made for a few decades now, but it's invariably been to get women's pay equal with that of men. The case made has tended to be a moral case appealing to our innate sense of fair play and often the veil of ignorance in one way or another as well as a smattering of 'potential' arguments.

Much of that holds true for making sure that any pay differentiation between men and women stays within 'reasonable' boundaries. (I think that the figures above are reasonable and possibly reflect that most men working part time will do so in jobs even worse aid than retail. But I am concerned that a small gap could get bigger.) So why the worry? Well, this is where it gets a little fluffy, but broadly speaking, a society which socialises men tends to be great for women who suffer less violence etc as a consequence.

When women were suffering from bad pay, it was acceptable to say that this was because they were inferior in one way or another. Many women accepted that judgment from society and, although not happy with it, probably more or less agreed with the core of it. They were able to to this in part because women have never been the dominant sex.

Men, on the other hand, have traditionally been the dominant sex. They have been used to being the intelligent, wise and hard working ones in the eyes of society. In terms of a pay differentiation, they are far less likely to accept that it is because they are 'worse' in some way and far more likely to decide that it's a conspircy and to opt out of society.

Men who opt out of society tend to be very dangerous to women indeed, especially if they blame women for their situation.

Today, we already see groups of men and individuals who are responded to both real and percived grievances and sexism. I had a conversation with DB a while ago and he said (paraphrasing) "adverts are anti men, you never see them taking the piss out of women". I agree, some adverts are 'silly man', but these tend to be adverts targtted at women. When you see nappy adverts and adverts for baby lotion targetted at men, then we will have achieved gender equality. The first advert I could think of to prove DB wrong was the Mr Muscle adverts. They effective said 'women work hard, but their are inefficient and silly for using so many products. Men are clever and only need to use one product". I also think of the Nuts adverts "women, don't expect help on a Tuesday" where women are shown, for example, unable to fix/clean a radiator.

In my view, the amount of sexism in adverts is probably about 50-50 and I don't actually object to most of it as it is done in the necessary jokey way. What I find interesting, though, is the perception to rise in 'anti-male' adverts has caused.

Combine this with the family court system, which tends to give custody to the mother on the grounds that she is the primary caregiver and therefore it seems to be in the best interest of the child. I find it wrong that mother often deny fathers their legal right to acecss their children, but I find it more interesting that groups like Fathers for Justice have started up to combat this. Unfortunately, I seem to remember several articles which strongly suggested (family court proceedings are not public) that the fathers had been denied access by the courts, and for very good reasons too. There is surely some injustice, but again, I believe it is being magnified by a group of people who never expected to be in this position and so don't know how to cope with it.

Combine this, most seriously, with the fact that women are performing better in education, accross the board. Initally, this was thought to be the fault f coursework which was seen as being more geare to girls, but it appears that in examination modules, women are also peforming better. This is largely, in my view, todo with a culture of conformity amoungst women whcih means it is simply expect that we get good grades and work hard, and so we do. As we have monopolised this behavioural pattern, and as masculinity is most often defined by not being feminine, this leaves boys to slack off and at best, not work hard enough to achieve their potential, at worst, see even the existance of good grades as evidence that someone is really 'a girl'. Whe women performed worse in education, it was largely for three reasons:
  1. at the time, women were expect to be thick, so many were.
  2. the pass grade for women, taking the same exam as men, as deliberately and explicitly raised
  3. women weren't taught certin subjects/taught them badly so they did worse in them.
All three of these propositions are no longer true, and women are out performing men. Now, we know that the system doesn't explicitly or implicitly discriminate against men in terms of pass marks or teaching, so it has to be the culture amoungst men which is the main determinative.

I've covered why this worries me, it's the backlash which could follow.

But it seems sad that female success and equality has meant that men have redefined their gender to reject success, thus removing half of the potential from society. Given the educational differntial, the problem of inequal pay is only going get worse - at least in the short run. I am concerned about how much society will lose out in this period. Unfortunately, it is someting men must fix themselves. The interference of women in this situation could only make it worse.


Jobs in Manchester said...

I think it is sad that we have had and continue to have inequalities across all walks of life. We are all humans at the end of the day and while of course our strive for survival is a selfish one we should unite to benefit one another. Something has to be done to ensure inequality is rid of and women and men can compete fairly in the work place.



Swiss Tony said...

Missy, did you know that Fathers For Justice has been around for about 5 years, but Families Need Fathers has been around for over 30! Most people have never heard of FnF

On separation at the end of a marriage, the person who 'wins' custody of the child is the one who doesn't leave the kids. If Mum leaves to go and live with her new boyfriend (for example) if she leaves the kids behind Dad becomes primary carer, if she takes them with her she is primary carer.

And I have usually found that a father that is primary carer is a worse example of a sharing and caring parent than any mother.


Miss Middle of Manchester said...


Thought this might be a topic which interested you.


I personally take the view that it' our lack of unity most of the time which leads to progress. We just need to sort out some bigotry along the way. I don't find inequity innately bad, wicked or evil - it just depends on the purpose of that inequality.

Al said...

Really interesting take on the situation, I'm going to have to pull it over over the weekend before I commit myself to an opinion.

Miss Middle of Manchester said...

I recognise I've grossly generalised in a lot of areas - but aside from that, I'm largely happy with it, I think.

will re-read it in a couple of weeks and see what I think then.