Yesterday I was listening to Woman’s Hour as I drove aimlessly to and from Sainsburys, having forgotten my purse by carefully filling it full of cash for the sole purpose of going to Sainsburys, and then leaving it on the kitchen table.
Jenni Murray was interviewing a journalist from Grazia Magazine. Grazia are celebrating their ten year anniversary of publication by sponsoring some research on how women’s lives have changed in the last ten years.
Some of the things that have changed for women are good. We have more of a voice these days, clearly we do. Look at this blog for a start, and nobody has tried to burn me as a witch for ooh, ages.
It was also mentioned that women apparently no longer feel the need to ‘have it all’. I am glad about this. I never wanted it all anyway. It seems to me that ‘having it all’ was a bit of a con trick actually. What having it all actually meant was working four times harder than anyone else, whilst still failing to do everything and being too knackered and miserable to enjoy the bits you did have. Having it all just meant that everyone else got to blame you for all the stuff that went wrong too, because you would inevitably be the one in charge of the ‘all’.
One of the things that has not been so good for women is being paid what they are worth. The pay gap looms large, despite the fact that the Equal Pay Act came into force in 1970.
I thought about this well considered blog post by Mrs. Trefusis with her thoughts on what it is to be a feminist in this day and age. In it she states that on average, for every £1 men earn, women earn 85p.
This is, of course, an average. There are many women who earn considerably less than their male counterparts I am sure, and I know that critics will say that there are women who earn more than their male counterparts, but I’d like to know what the percentages are, given that I also read recently that men occupy about 80% of the top positions in UK businesses.
Interestingly in an election year in which parties are going all out for the women’s vote, only 22% of our MPs are women despite the fact that 52% of the population is female.
What are they doing to encourage women into political life? Well, they’ve painted a bus Barbie pink and are driving it around towns to try and encourage women to engage with the difficult issues of the day.
That will help.
So we still have pay inequality. We have pay inequality which leads to problems like the potential bankruptcy of Birmingham City Council, who face having to pay millions in back pay to 170 women who fought in the High Court and won a claim to get equal pay for work they had done for the council where the council had paid men on the same grade more money.
Numerous articles published after the women won their case were printed in which the council complained about the fact that this claim could make them bankrupt and it ‘wasn’t fair’, not because those 170 women had taken all the money, but because it could lead to other people trying the same thing, which makes you wonder what else they have to hide.
As Inigo Montoya says:
“You Keep Using That Word, I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means”
I would say that it is not fair for people doing the same job on the same pay scale to be paid different amounts of money for what they do based on whether they have a penis or not. There are not many jobs in the world that specifically require you to own a penis, and being a cleaning operative is definitely not one of them.
One of the arguments is that the pay gap is skewed because women often choose jobs which are naturally lower paid than the jobs that men choose. I would argue that quite often ‘choice’ is not an issue. Women very often work, and look after their children, and take care of their houses, and will turn out to be the primary carers for their aged relatives when the time comes. Men very often do not.
Finding a job that allows you to balance all those things, and take time out when your child is sick, etc, is not easy, and quite often, the low paid, part time jobs that have flexible hours are the only ones that are suitable. They are not necessarily what a woman would choose to do.
People might say that this division of labour is natural, because women are the ones to have babies. I say that there is nothing natural about women having babies, finding full time child care, juggling all the chores, running their household and working their arses off, mostly to pay for all the child care and help with cleaning if they’re lucky enough to earn that much, while men merely go to work and come home. It is not natural, it is super human.
Employees who don’t want that level of skill in their businesses must be nuts, and those kinds of organisational abilities should be encouraged, supported and properly paid for whether you’re a man, a woman or a donkey.
I would say that this picture is changing for some, if not all families. It is a good thing when I see more men picking their children up from school on week days. I know that many more men are part of a team that helps run the house, rather than sitting aloof from it and watching their wives/partners run themselves ragged, but there is still a long way to go.
Until then it seems we have to mind the gap, and I do mind. I mind it very much.