Minding the gap
I was reading a report on equal pay for women yesterday when I came across a figure that stopped me in my tracks. It wasn't that women on average earn 16% less than men. Unless you are an entrepreneur living under a rock, you would know that new air has been breathed into the push for wage equality by the unions, government and business groups who are also concerned about the low participation of women in the corridors of power.
And nor was the figure that sex discrimination accounts for 35% of the gap. Smart employers are always on the lookout for this ugly behaviour.
It was the rest of the "gap" that made such interesting reading.
- Experience – 8%
- Tenure with current employer – 3% (men on average have been with an employer for seven years while women clocked up six).
- Years without working – 9%
- Industry segmentation - 10%
- Occupational segmentation - 18%
- Share in part-time employment - 14%
- Share working in NGOs government - 3%
In other words, 45% of the pay gap is due to women working in less experienced jobs, working part-time, being with an employer for a shorter period of time, taking time out of the workforce to have children, working for not-for-profits where they don't get paid much or working in jobs that don't pay as much.
Now some of those choices by the women are being driven by lack facilities such as childcare. But many women chose to take time out of the workforce or to work part-time like I did, to raise their children.
And yes, the result of that is forgoing promotions and accepting a smaller wage. This was described by the CEO of DCA, Nareen Young, as systemic sex discrimination.
But as the Economist reported in their January edition, with a cover story on what happens when Women are over half the workforce, childless women in corporate America earn nearly the same as men.
"The reason for the income gap may be the opposite of prejudice: "It is that women are judged by exactly the same standards as men."
So how are we going to solve this dilemma? How can women ever get equal pay as men?
Sure we can make inroads, broadcasting and stamping out overt discrimination. We can assist women more with childcare, maternity pay and shame men into doing more around the house.
But it strikes me that the best thing we can do is educate women about how their career choice and career patterns will affect their purse so they can at least make better informed decisions about how they lead their lives.
Meanwhile the people debating these issues must acknowledge that it is not just employers and a rigid market system that cause the wage gap. Women make choices too.