The BBC’s China editor, Carrie Gracie, has resigned from her post amid much outcry, accusing the BBC of having a secretive and illegal pay culture. She was offered a pay rise before she resigned, but her proposed new salary of £180,000 was still far less than the £200,000 – £249,999 paid to Jon Sopel, the BBC’s North America editor. Also when the BBC published a list of its top earning stars, it was revealed that only a third were women and the top seven were all men.
This inequality is not just limited to the BBC, but I’m using this as an example. It happens in many other corporations, but fortunately it seems that women are at last starting to break the silence and speak out, now that companies have been forced to publish their gender pay gaps.
We have moved on since the days when married women were not allowed to work, and single women tended to have dead-end jobs until they got married. Nowadays more women than ever attend universities, obtain degrees, and want and expect the same salaries as men for doing a similar job. And why not indeed? It is only right and proper that Carrie Gracie should have been paid the same as Jon Sopel, as I’m sure you would all agree.
In the hospital where I work the pay bands are upfront and well known. Grade 1 pay scale includes housekeepers and some kitchen staff. For Grade 2 you get the ward clerks and simple administration jobs. Grades 3 and 4 include medical secretaries. A Grade 5 job is somebody in charge of the General Office, Grade 6’s are assistant service managers, and all grades above 6 are managerial positions. The medical staff have their own pay grades, where consultants earn the highest salaries.
So who do you think are housekeepers, ward clerks and medical secretaries? Yes, these jobs are all done by women. When you get to the Grade 7 and 8 higher-paying managerial positions, surprise surprise, these are mostly done by men. The nursing staff are mainly women and the consultants are mostly men, but there are a few women consultants and the odd male nurse too to even it out a bit.
What do you think is one of the main factors in this gender inequality? Near the top of the list is that thing which employers mustn’t talk about to prospective female employees – pregnancy and children. Most (but not all) women are instinctively caring and nurturing and want to bear and raise children, and the majority are prepared to forego a high-paying career to build their families. This makes them happier to take lesser paid part-time jobs in order to have the best of both worlds, which most men cannot afford to do if they have a partner at home and children to provide for. It’s all common sense so far? Also, it’s only human nature that even if he/she does not ask the ‘children’ question, the MD of a company will more likely than not have childcare in the back of their mind if they interview a female candidate of childbearing age. This will automatically put a woman with children at a disadvantage over a male candidate. I know this for certain because a female consultant at our hospital once attended for an interview, wore a big coat, and did not let on that she was pregnant. Within 2 months of taking up the job she was off on 15 months paid maternity leave. Two years later she took another 15 months off for the same condition, causing the head of the department to virtually jump up and down in rage, stating that he would have never employed her if he had known what was going to happen.
Of course in the minority are non-maternal / career-minded women who do not want children, or career women who have children but have maybe a partner or a nanny who stays at home to look after them. These women want the same career opportunities as men and be paid the same as men if they choose to do a similar job, and they should be. Hopefully times will now be changing for the better.
But are there many similar jobs for men and women? All the heavy industry and engineering jobs for instance are dominated by men. All the caring, nursing, and lower-paid administrative jobs tend to be dominated by women. Even at the school-leaver level there are so many more apprenticeships favouring boys than there are that might attract girls. I know because I found this out when helping my sons to gain apprenticeships more than 15 years ago. Girls, because of the aforementioned caring nature, are not usually attracted to jobs in heavy industry where the salaries are higher.
But at the moment are women paid as much as men if they do happen to work in a similar job? On the whole, no. This is because up until now most companies have kept silent about how much they pay women as compared to men, and they’ve got away with it. Career women have crawled up to the glass ceiling and have unknowingly accepted lower pay because of company secrecy, and usually women are less forthright than men anyway about speaking out and maybe losing their jobs. If a company can get away with paying women less and therefore having less outgoings and more profit, then you can bet your bottom dollar that they will do just that. Men, previously thought of as the main breadwinners (but as I said, times are changing) would probably be more upfront about asking for a pay rise and getting it.
Will a fresh feminine breeze soon be blowing around staid male-dominated corporations? I sincerely hope so…
I’m working at one of those female-orientated jobs I’ve just written about today, so will check in again tonight and answer any comments!