Shock Re­port: Close The Gap Scot­land

Af­ter 40 years of equal pay leg­is­la­tion, how big is the wage gap between men and women? What are the other bar­ri­ers Scot­tish women face in the work­place? Ida Maspero talks to an ex­pert, and work­ing women them­selves, about the many faces of gen­der dis­crimi

No. 1 Magazine - - CONTENTS -

It seems things have never looked brighter for Scot­tish women at work. With the top jobs in Scot­tish pol­i­tics – and the hot seat in West­min­ster – oc­cu­pied by the fe­male of the species, it would ap­pear the glass ceil­ing has fi­nally been shat­tered. But for or­di­nary women, the re­al­ity couldn’t be fur­ther from the truth. In so many as­pects of work­ing life – re­mu­ner­a­tion, pro­mo­tion prospects, work-life bal­ance and at­ti­tudes of male bosses and co-work­ers – there’s firm ev­i­dence that many of us face gen­der bar­ri­ers and dis­crim­i­na­tion of one kind or an­other, of­ten very sub­tle. Even on the straight­for­ward mat­ter of pay, there is still a huge di­vide, says Glas­gow­based work­place equal­ity ini­tia­tive Close the Gap. Though the UK’S Equal Pay Act came into force in 1975 (su­per­seded by the Equal­ity Act 2010), there is a 14.8 per cent gap between men’s and women’s com­bined hourly rates in Scot­land, and a 33.5 per cent gap when you com­pare women’s part-time hourly rate to men’s full-time hourly rate.

Work­ing mums’ choices

Why is it still the case when the leg­is­la­tion is so well es­tab­lished? “One of the ma­jor rea­sons is that women and men re­main clus­tered into dif­fer­ent kinds of jobs,” ex­plains Lind­sey Millen, De­vel­op­ment Of­fi­cer at Close the Gap. “Men are em­ployed across a whole spec­trum of jobs, while women tend to be con­cen­trated in less well-paid oc­cu­pa­tions with a lower skill level. “This is where most of the part-time or flex­i­ble jobs are for women who are hav­ing to bal­ance car­ing for young chil­dren or el­derly par­ents,” con­tin­ues Lind­sey. “There’s a real short­age of qual­ity flex­i­ble or part-time jobs in the UK, with less than six per cent of jobs pay­ing over £19,500 a year avail­able in this way. “You reg­u­larly hear it said that women choose to work part-time af­ter they’ve had chil­dren, but quite of­ten it’s be­cause they don’t have af­ford­able child­care. So it’s not a true choice at all, but one made out of ne­ces­sity. Here the Govern­ment can do more to en­sure suf­fi­cient child­care pro­vi­sion – enough free lo­cal au­thor­ity spa­ces and more af­ford­able wrap-around child­care.”

Ma­ter­nity trap

When it comes to the ar­rival of a new baby, anec­dotes abound of women be­ing side­lined or over­looked for pro­mo­tion once preg­nant or on ma­ter­nity leave. Alarm­ingly, a Uk-wide sur­vey last year by the Equal­ity and Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion found that three in four moth­ers (77 per cent) said they’d had a neg­a­tive or pos­si­bly dis­crim­i­na­tory ex­pe­ri­ence dur­ing preg­nancy, ma­ter­nity leave or on re­turn­ing from leave. The per­cep­tion per­sists that women go­ing off to have ba­bies is a bur­den to a busi­ness. “We still hear em­ploy­ers say that ap­point­ing

women of child-bear­ing age is a risk,” says Lind­sey. “That’s ex­tremely short-sighted. The value of hav­ing chil­dren is largely in­vis­i­ble, but very im­por­tant to the future of the econ­omy.” New rules on shared parental leave, which came into force last April, promised to give work­ing cou­ples more op­tions, yet re­cent fig­ures show that less than one per cent of fa­thers are tak­ing it up, says Lind­sey, who be­lieves em­ploy­ers should be more proac­tive in en­cour­ag­ing men to use it. “We know that busi­nesses with en­hanced parental leave poli­cies ben­e­fit from bet­ter staff re­ten­tion and morale. So it’s a win-win.” Yet even ca­reer-minded women might find they don’t have a choice at all, but are boxed in by stereo­typ­i­cal no­tions of motherhood – take Anna’s* story, be­low. She was side-lined and de­moted dur­ing her preg­nancy and told to take a long ma­ter­nity leave, even though she didn’t want to.

Trou­ble at the top

For women who’ve achieved suc­cess in male-dom­i­nated in­dus­tries or pro­fes­sions, the glass ceil­ing is still very ev­i­dent. This is the ex­pe­ri­ence of Sadie*, a se­nior con­sul­tant at a large Scot­tish prop­erty com­pany, where there is not a sin­gle woman at board­room level. “It means that, for a woman like my­self in mid­dle man­age­ment, there’s no voice rep­re­sent­ing our voice at the board­room ta­ble,” she says. “When­ever I’ve raised this with se­nior man­age­ment, it’s laughed off as a non-is­sue. I’ve seen email threads with gen­der bal­ance writ­ten in in­verted com­mas, as though it’s not a real con­cept to be taken se­ri­ously. Now I and other fe­male col­leagues are re­luc­tant to speak up for fear of be­ing viewed as the ‘nag­ging wife’.” With such a male-cen­tric cul­ture, the com­pany has no evolved ma­ter­nity pol­icy or flex­i­ble work­ing pol­icy, says Sadie, and this has a neg­a­tive im­pact on the busi­ness. “A con­ser­va­tive di­nosaur of a com­pany will not at­tract bright women or re­tain them – they’re miss­ing out on a huge pool of tal­ent.” Many em­ploy­ers have a cul­tural pre­sump­tion against flex­i­ble work­ing at se­nior level, con­firms Lind­sey Millen. “They place greater value on time at the desk than pro­duc­tiv­ity, yet re­search shows that peo­ple who work part-time or flex­i­bly are more pro­duc­tive per hour than those who have stan­dard work­ing hours.”

It’s about at­ti­tude

Many of us have tales to tell about ca­su­ally sex­ist at­ti­tudes in the work­place. This sub­tle and per­va­sive form of in­equal­ity re­mains a big is­sue, con­tin­ues Lind­sey Millen of Close The Gap. “It might not be ob­vi­ously linked to the pay gap, but sex­ist at­ti­tudes and be­hav­iour con­trib­ute to an en­vi­ron­ment in which it is eas­ier to pay women less. “It’s im­por­tant that em­ploy­ers un­der­stand that such at­ti­tudes among their male em­ploy­ees are not OK, that’s it’s not OK to treat women dif­fer­ently. Em­ploy­ers have a duty to chal­lenge this be­hav­iour.” The busi­ness case for tack­ling women’s in­equal­ity in the labour mar­ket is clear, says Lind­sey. “Our re­search pa­per Gen­der Equal­ity Pays showed that tack­ling it can add £17 bil­lion a year to the Scot­tish econ­omy. There are eco­nomic gains for so­ci­ety and busi­nesses – they be­come more pro­duc­tive and can at­tract and keep the best tal­ent, rather than over­look­ing half the can­di­dates.” At the end of the day, true equal­ity in the work­place comes down to hav­ing real choice and op­por­tu­nity. As long as many women face a choice when it comes to bal­anc­ing work and fam­ily, the gap is un­likely to close.

On mat leave and made re­dun­dant I earn £20k - half goes on child­care I was de­moted af­ter be­com­ing a mum

I’m paid less malethan peers My male boss makes un­in­vited com­ments was told to ‘dress like a woman’ Em­ploy­ers re­ject me be­cause of my age De­nied flex­i­ble work­ing af­ter child­birth I was passed up for pro­mo­tion

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