Why in 2014 are we still talking about equal pay for working women?

The World Economic Forum survey revealed this week that the gender gap between Irish women and men has widened in the past year. We've slipped two places and are now in eighth place.

Women's pay was 94pc of men's earnings in 2011 and is now back to 85.6pc - the same as it was in 2006.

To put it another way, women spend seven weeks working for nothing every year here because they are paid a sixth less than men on average annually. So if you're a working woman reading this column, essentially you worked for free until mid-February.


The gap increases, the higher up the ladder you go, so if you're a working woman in a 'top-paying' job, well it's even worse. You get paid, on average, a quarter less a year than your male colleagues. So essentially you were working until the end of March for free.

Ireland is one of just six EU countries where the gap has gotten bigger in recent years; the others are Hungary, Portugal, Estonia, Bulgaria and Spain. The Nordic countries, predictably, top the list.

As it stands, it'll be more than 80 years before the gap is closed - about 2095. I won't be alive to see it.

Perhaps my two-year-old daughter will be. She won't have benefited though. In fact it will be her daughter's, daughter's daughter that will be in the first woman in our family to get paid as much for doing the same job as a man. My great, great granddaughter.

So why in 2014 are we still talking about equal pay for equal work? An explanation for the gender gap doesn't just boil down to rampant sexism. It's a far more nuanced combination of economic, social and educational factors.

It doesn't help when the CEO of a company like Microsoft says to a conference celebrating women in the tech field: "It's not really about asking for a raise, but knowing and having faith that the system will give you the right raise."

What? He's been backtracking ever since making his remarks, straight out of the school of 'Don't Put The Men Off By Acting All Equal'.


Maybe there are some women lucky enough to just have people tap them on the shoulder and offer them a raise, but that's as rare as hen's teeth.

The bulk of the research suggests that you need to be able to ask for opportunities to make them happen. And it's even less likely that women will be chosen for a promotion or offered more responsibility without asking for it.

And while there are better countries to live in than Ireland, when it comes to earning more as a woman, there isn't a country in the world where a woman earns as much for doing the same job.

The world over, we're like men, only cheaper.