In terms of gender pay gap skills, there are more senior men than women in the workplace as a whole. Senior people tend to be paid more than junior people.
1. More men in senior roles than women
It is certainly true that However, that doesn’t mean that the disparity cannot be tackled.
There’s an assumption that senior jobs ‘naturally’ require long hours and constant availability, Thus, cannot be done flexibly or part-time.
Indeed, employers operating a long-hours culture for senior roles are likely to be the worst offenders. Long hours have been shown to be inherently gendered and to exacerbate the gender pay gap. And research has shown that, for the highest-educated women, the gender pay gap has not fallen at all in the last 25 years.
SO, DESIGN SENIOR ROLES TO WORK FOR ALL
That’s a workforce in which 90% of workers either already have, or say they want, flexible and part-time working. A workforce that includes men and women, parents and carers, all of whom want or need to work, but few of whom can do so to the exclusion of everything else.
Employers come up with a range of reasons why flexible and part-time working are impossible in senior roles. “The clients might need you on your day off”; “Your team can’t manage without you”; “You’re the only one with the expert knowledge”; “You’d miss out on too much information if you worked part-time”. The fact is, none of these have to be a barrier. All jobs can be designed differently, with a little imagination and a lot of collaboration.
2. Caring responsibilities and part-time roles are shared unequally
Here, the argument is that women ‘choose’ to care for children, so they naturally end up in part-time jobs, below their skill levels, and with fewer progression opportunities.
It’s true that the gender pay gap increases after childbirth, and that, by the time their first child is 20, women’s hourly wages are about a third below men’s.
However, this is based on a similar assumption to the first reason: that is, that part-time jobs are ‘naturally’ less senior, and so are automatically downgraded. And p
Positioning part-time work as women’s ‘choice’ not only suggests that women are responsible for their lower earnings, but also takes the pressure off employers to do anything about it.
It’s also true that there are societal expectations at play here, with men in the UK finding it harder to ask for part-time work. In the Nordic countries, where government initiatives have actively tackled expectations of gender roles, change is much faster. Yet, we know that men in the UK do want to work part-time; research has shown that over half of younger fathers would take a pay cut to work less and spend more time with their family.
SO, CREATE QUALITY FLEXIBLE JOBS THAT ALLOW WOMEN AND MEN TO BALANCE AMBITION WITH CARING RESPONSIBILITIES…
… to overcome the cultural biases which make it hard for men to opt for part-time or flexible working. And part of the solution here is to make part-time roles more attractive to career-driven people.
Firstly, employers need to redesign jobs so that part-time work doesn’t just mean delivering a full-time job for part-time pay. That kind of set-up isn’t good for anyone. Secondly, they need to redesign jobs at all levels. This is to ensure that career progression on a part-time basis is not only acceptable, but aspirational.
3. Women choose to work in low-paid roles and sectors
Women ‘choose’ to work as nurses, teachers, or shop assistants, while men ‘choose’ to be surgeons, construction workers or engineers. The issue here is that we undervalue traditionally female skills – and that will take a while to change.
There is also a perceived wisdom that women choose low-paid occupations because they offer more flexibility. Or are more family-friendly. Again, the perception that it is a choice to prioritise children over paid work. Rather than being due to a lack of viable alternatives. This positions the gender pay gap as a fact of life, and releases employers from responsibility for changing it.
SO, OPEN UP ALL SECTORS TO PART-TIME AND FLEXIBLE WORKING…
… which would encourage more women to work in them, and more men to switch to working part-time. So once again, flexible working holds the solution. Building flexible progression into these roles would allow part-timers to develop their careers in a more equitable way.
4. Women earn less for the same role…
SO, STOP PAYING WOMEN LESS THAN MEN FOR THE SAME ROLE
We don’t need a flexible working solution here, since we already have the Equal Pay Act of 1970.