- Jo Faragher
A series of reports out this week offered women in the workplace a triple-whammy of despair.
First was a research report by Citizens Advice that showed a 58% rise in the number of people coming to them regarding issues with maternity leave in the last year. Coupled with that, visits to CA’s pregnancy discrimination advice pages have doubled in the last year.
Then there was a report by the Institute of Fiscal Studies, suggesting women who returned to work after a baby earn far less than men in the long term – 33% less over 12 years – and consistently missed out on opportunities for promotion.
The IFS found that, because women often return to work in a part-time capacity after having children, they were not just penalised because their hourly wages went down, but on subsequent wage progression – so men pull further and further ahead.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady called this pay gap “scandalous” and called for employers to support parents to take their responsibilities more equally so women would not be as held back at work, for example by providing better paid leave for fathers.
A further report by the CMI, looking at pay and promotion prospects at management level, found that female managers were less likely to be promoted, received lower bonuses, and earn almost £9,000 less than their male management counterparts.
So as legislation to force companies over a certain size to publish their gender pay gap moves closer, why are we still seeing such disparity in pay and prospects for women at work?
We can blame some of the figures on legacy attitudes and pay structures, of course, but there is room for much improvement. Entrenched attitudes about men being bolder about asking for a pay rise or that women should simply accept lower paid but more flexible work after having children don’t help – why shouldn’t someone who works four days a week have the same chances of promotion as their male counterpart who happens to work full time? Why are more senior positions not available as job shares?
As the TUC points out, some evening up needs to be done on the childcare side too, with better incentives for men to stay at home or work flexibly, so the burden of returning to work is shared rather than endured by one party, and one side of the partnership is not held back in their career.
Legislating on the gender pay gap will provide a push, but ultimately its outdated attitudes and cultures need to change.