Hurrah, it’s International Women’s Day! Time for a bunch of reports informing us of much less we earn than men! Aren’t you excited?
- Sample data finds that women aren’t paid as highly as men, while holding various factors constant.
- Off into the tumbleweeds of academic studies that try to determine why.
- A pundit in question writes about it. (Why, hello…)
- Others chime in with their own experience and thoughts. (That’s you! Comment space located below, thank you.)
But before we go there, let’s add something, just to mix it up a bit. It fact, we’ll start out with it.
5. Tell women, and indeed men, what they can do about it if they think they are being discriminated against on the basis of gender, or some other attribute that for reals shouldn’t matter in the workplace.
Here’s a link to the “Equal pay — Statutory Code of Practice” which is from the Equality Act 2010. In short, there are various “protected attributes”, like gender, race, and age. Employers can’t discriminate on the basis of these. In summary (emphasis ours):
A woman doing equal work with a man in the same employment is entitled to equality in pay and other contractual terms, unless the employer can show that there is a material reason for the difference which does not discriminate on the basis of her sex.
[Note about the use of "woman" and "man" in the above: "The equal pay provisions in the Equality Act 2010 apply to both men and women but to avoid repetition and for clarity, this Code is written as though the claimant is a woman comparing her work and pay with those of a man, referred to as the male comparator." So don't have kittens over the wording please.]
The onus is on the employer to prove the “material reason” once a complainant has found a comparable employee who is paid more. The Employment Tribunal will examine the work done by the two employees to assess comparability.
Before it ever gets that far, there is an important first step — figuring out what one’s direct colleagues are paid to try to determine if there is indeed any discrimination. The Equality Act has protections for those seeking information and for those who disclose it. For example:
Any term of a contract which prohibits or restricts a person from making a ‘relevant pay disclosure’ to anyone, including a trade union representative, or from seeking such a disclosure from a colleague, including a former colleague, is unenforceable.
But careful that “relevant pay disclosure” is a defined term — one must be disclosing, or asking for, pay information in order to ascertain whether there is discrimination on the basis of a protected characteristic, such as gender. Without that aim, one may simply be breaking confidentiality provisions, should they be present in one’s contract. This example and other useful ones on page 26 of the Code of Practice:
Example: A female airline pilot believes she is underpaid compared with a male colleague. She asks him what he is paid, and he tells her. The airline takes disciplinary action against the man as a result. The man can bring a claim for victimisation against the employer for disciplining him.
Alright, enough of that, let us go back to Step #1 of the formula, and so over to the BBC for the following headline:
Graduate pay gap – women paid thousands less than men
And the dataset?
Researchers for the Higher Education Careers Services Unit (Hecsu) analysed how much students who applied to higher education in 2006, earned last year.
The researchers analysed data from a longitudinal study of 17,000 recent graduates called Futuretrack. They found that the take-home pay of more than half of female graduates ranged between £15,000 and £23,999.
Men were more likely to take home £24,000 and above, they found.
The analysis did not include part-time workers or the unemployed.
The data, published in the Hecsu journal Graduate Market Trends, suggested men earned more than women across all degree subject areas, even if more women took those subjects than men.
The first two paragraphs are a slightly annoying description of this dataset:
One immediately wonders if this is down to some obvious factor. So let’s look at whether degree choice matters:
We bet some of the differences aren’t statistically significant, particularly where the number of women in the study (e.g. maths and computer science) might be small compared to the sample of men. Nonetheless the above chart still gives some pause for thought.
Also, there doesn’t appear to be any change in the observed differential if the degree is used or not; though this information is self-declared rather than investigated:
Does nature of the institute one attended for higher education explain anything?
That’s quite a differential in earnings for the top universities, shown all the way to the left. Hmm.
What about the choice of sector for one’s first job?
Wow… check out the “Banking, finance, insurance” division. That really makes us ponder, as even at the graduate level there is a huge amount of variety in the types of jobs available within that area. Some jobs are very high in hours — to consider just one factor — but also very high incentive pay (or at least it was in the past!). Do disproportionately more women than men avoid those jobs? It’s impossible to tell from these data, so more of a musing of ours than anything.
An even higher level grouping reveals that the not-for-profit sector appears to have far less of an issue, as the BBC article mentions:
OK, so let’s take it as a given, for a moment, that right from the beginning of their career women appear to be paid less, at least in the case of UK graduates. There’s plenty of news out today that the pay gap is there higher up the career ladder and also in other countries.
Next to Step #2 — academic studies.
Join us for that in Part 2.