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Gender pay gap drives inequality and diminishes self-worth


Group of smiling business people in a meeting together.

Group of smiling business people in a meeting together.

Group of smiling business people in a meeting together.

Naysayers will tell you that the gender pay gap is the result of women choosing different jobs or that it doesn't exist at all, but new figures show that while women's pay overtakes men's in their 20s, men earn more in their 30s and for the rest of their career. In real terms, this means that women are unpaid for almost two hours of work every single day.

Since February 10, 1976, every woman here is entitled to equal pay for equal work, but no country sees women paid as much as men.

The female pay-slippage starts kicking in shortly after 30, which is the same time many women trail off to start families.

Naturally, people make the assumption that it's all about our wombs and assume that women are demanding the exact same division of work and childcare they have now, except with more money thrown in.

We're not. All we are asking for is what men have always had: the right to have both a family and a fair wage and not have to compete in workplace cultures that place too much emphasis on hours worked, rather than output.

It all comes back to the outdated biological model that insists women want to look after children more than men do.

What the biological model never explains is where post-natal depression figures in this (it's actually 13pc of Irish mothers), or why women with small children feel so lonely and isolated.

It only makes sense for mothers and fathers to share the care of children for the sake of everybody's well-being.

Two-income families are now a necessity anyway and 57pc of women with a child under three were in full-time employment in 2011 despite the downturn.

This widespread expectation that women will shoulder most of the childcare even if they do work full-time is not something women have deliberately chosen.

It's also the case that many women can't, or choose not to, have children.

Nearly 18pc of women in their mid-40s in Ireland now are childless. Others who become mothers take scant maternity leave, then use childcare to ensure their careers are not affected.

There is also the fact that from their mid-40s a significant number of mothers would have older teenage children, whose impact on their working life should be virtually nil.

All these different types of women, in different situations, whose lesser earnings could not be casually attributed to their procreative goings-on, succumb to some notion that all women need to be put in breeding boxes when they hit 30 and then nailed into them eternally.

Claiming that a woman's urge to repopulate and her unconscious choices are responsible for all gender inequalities can be hard to argue against.

Except that by buying into such an argument, men end a discussion about work-life balance that could benefit them too, and managers continue underusing and discriminating against half their workforce.

According to the United Nations, it will take another 70 years to close the gender gap in pay around the world.

That's 70 more years of less income, less savings, and less self-worth.

That's two more generations before equality arrives.

True equality, you see, only moves so quickly, and reaches so far.

We do share one guilty secret. We tend to be uncomfortable about asking outright for more money. Men are much better at negotiating pay for two reasons: they have a healthy lack of embarrassment and tend to greatly overestimate themselves.

In the workplace, confidence - whether misplaced or not - often pays off. Underselling yourself, funnily enough, results in lower pay.

A separate study published late last year showed that female graduates were starting on slightly smaller salaries than male graduates, not because they were offered less, but because the men tended to ask for a better starting salary.

Women are still inclined to say nothing and not ask for a pay rise at the annual appraisal, despite the fact that the work-shy lad who sits in the desk opposite and make endless loo trips is paid substantially more.

So never mind hearing the pitter-patter of tiny feet, we still reek of an inequality in Ireland that all the extended maternity leaves and childcare offerings whiich Fine Gael might try to butter us up with won't solve. It's a matter of basic justice that should enrage us all.

The promise of equal pay was made almost 40 years ago and it's payback time.

Sisters, let's demand that raise - because we're worth it.

Irish Independent