Wednesday 20 March 2019

Claire Fox: Are women just doomed when it comes to being paid equally?

Are Irish women ever going to be paid as much as their male peers?
Are Irish women ever going to be paid as much as their male peers?
Claire Fox

Claire Fox

“Equal pay for equal work” - The first time I heard this phrase was when I was 16-years- old. I was sitting at the back of my 5th Year Business Studies class and my teacher was drilling into us the conditions of employment that we’d need to know for our Christmas exams.

I didn’t really understand why she kept repeating it to us, the concept seemed like a no brainer and impossible to forget.

Six years on, I’m beginning to think that maybe my teacher was sending the 20 girls that were sitting in front of her a subliminal message.

Maybe she wanted us to be aware that equal pay for equal work doesn’t actually exist in Ireland and that she knew once we’d leave those cosy classroom walls that we’d be entering an unequal working world.

The time between me sitting in that classroom and today has mostly been a sorry memoir of mediocre working conditions. In fact, this is the first time in my life that I’ve actually been paid minimum wage.

I endured endless part-time jobs in college where the employers always managed to use some small print or loop-hole to avoid paying me what I was owed.

Not forgetting the numerous unpaid internships I did to make myself more employable.

Since getting paid minimum wage has been a struggle for me, I’m not surprised that the gender pay gap exists in Ireland.

I have completed 17 years of education but somehow that still won’t be enough for me to get equal pay for equal work, even though it’s been written in Irish law for almost 20 years.

It’s downright depressing knowing that my male peers who graduated with me will more than likely earn more than me throughout our careers.

In Ireland today it doesn’t seem to matter if a woman arrives in to work a half an hour before her male colleague or sacrifices her lunch hour to get a job done right, the male will still win.

Claudia Winkleman and Tess Daly are two BBC presenters who I hugely admire. 

Yes, I sometimes question their outfit choices, but I never question their talent.

Whenever I watch Strictly Come Dancing I am always delighted that two strong women are at the helm of a prime TV slot every Saturday from September to Christmas.

That’s why I was shocked to discover last week that Winkleman and Daly’s salaries are £450,000 and £350,000 respectively, almost 2 million lower than the highest earner Chris Evans. Now, while of course their salaries aren’t to be sneezed at and would be akin to winning the lottery for most people, once again we see that women are earning less.

The same story was repeated in RTE too. If large employers do not follow the basic principles of pay equality how can we expect smaller organisations to do the same? Are women just doomed when it comes to being paid equally?

Ireland’s gender gap currently stands at 14.8pc, while PWC reckons that we can close the pay gap by 2032, I don’t see why it can’t be shut down for good right now.

By the time 2032 comes around I’ll be 37-years-old and have spent 15 years in the workforce. I could be married and have children. I’ll want to say to my kids that we as young women stood up and did something about the gender pay gap instead of pretending it didn’t exist.

Feminism in Ireland has never been stronger but this isn’t just a female issue. Non-nationals also get paid less than white males in Ireland.

What about trans-gender people? This is a gender issue after all and we cannot forget about this growing proportion of society who are in no doubt in danger of getting the short straw when it comes to pay.

The Gender Pay Gap Information Bill which was passed through the Seanad is a positive step in shutting down the gender pay gap as if passed in the Dáil it will force employers to reveal the salaries that they pay each gender.

From universities to hospitals we can see that the gender pay gap is not a myth. I’m calling on everyone, both male and female to protest together to banish the pay gap for once and for all and to not put it on the back burner.

If people wear jumpers and post Instagram pictures urging the government to repeal the Eighth Amendment, we should do the same in order to eradicate the gender pay gap.

I’m not comparing the gender pay gap to an issue that affects a woman’s body, but it certainly has a huge impact on a woman. It affects her lifestyle, and mental health, from whether she can feed her children to if she can afford that weekend away or not.

As a young woman making her first tentative steps into the workforce I’m frustrated that it has been nearly 30 years since Irish women “rocked the cradle” and voted Mary Robinson as our President and very little has changed.

In 2018 we will be celebrating the centenary of a women’s right to vote, wouldn’t it be nice for women, 100 years from now, to be marking 2017 as the year that the gender pay gap was stamped out in Ireland for once and for all?

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