Women, like men, only cheaper.

The days of industrial hours working and bums-in-seats mentality need to be put behind us all. This approach simply doesn’t fit with today’s working cultures or with how we live, parent and work. It’s time for some new approaches and fresh thinking. Here Claire Fry, Founding Partner of the Juggling Act, talks pay gaps, parenting and what can be done to address these crucial issues.

As we approach the second gender pay gap reporting deadline on the 4th of April, society continues to ask the question: why does there continue to be such a gap between male and female salaries and bonuses? How we pay (or don’t pay) working mothers is a big piece of the puzzle.

The history of pay gaps

First a little background. Gender Pay Gap Reporting came into force in April 2018. Employers with 250 or more employees are required by law to publish their figures comparing men and women’s average pay across the organisation. This legislation is in contrast to The Equal Pay Act, from 1970, which made it illegal to pay women lower rates than men for the same work. The Equal Pay Act is known informally as ‘equal pay, for equal work’.

Gender Pay Gap Reporting looks instead at the measure of the difference between men’s and women’s average earnings across an organisation or sector. It is expressed as a percentage of men’s earnings. In other words, if most of your support staff are women and most of your leadership team is male, you’re going to have a big gender pay gap.

The part-time myth

In my consulting work through Pale Blue Coaching I work with organisations to help them close their gender pay gaps in a variety of ways. Now through our research for The Juggling Act, Lucy, Chris and I are seeing a continued theme: companies are pro-rating pay (and bonuses) for working mothers who are theoretically only working 3 or 4 days a week, but in fact the reality is very different. In her book, ‘Becoming’, the fabulous Michelle Obama describes the situation succinctly:

“What I didn’t realise-and this would also go into my file of things many of us learn too late – is that a part-time job, especially when it’s meant to be a scaled-down version of your previously full-time job, can be something of a trap. Or at least that’s how it played out for me. At work, I was still attending all the meetings I always had while also grappling with most of the same responsibilities. The only real difference was that I now made half my original salary and was trying to cram everything into a twenty-hour week”.

What I didn’t realise-and this would also go into my file of things many of us learn too late – is that a part-time job, especially when it’s meant to be a scaled-down version of your previously full-time job, can be something of a trap. Or at least that’s how it played out for me. At work, I was still attending all the meetings I always had while also grappling with most of the same responsibilities. The only real difference was that I now made half my original salary and was trying to cram everything into a twenty-hour week”

Michelle Obama, Becoming

Ending the pro-rating penalty

At the Juggling Act we want to see organisations ending the practice of pro-rating pay for working parents. In fact, for any employee who wants to spend slightly less time in the office. As long as the individual is delivering on stretch targets against a fully-scoped role, this will be a positive thing for all involved. So many mothers – and an increasing number of fathers – tell us how they technically work 4 out of 5 days, but that actually no one else is picking up the other elements of their role. It doesn’t get distributed to other team members. So where does it go?

Often, the answer is nowhere. It stays with you. It’s a huge negative contributor to the #genderpaygap as a result. Time and time again we hear about how working mothers are logging in every chance they get: on the weekends, when the kid(s) are in bed, when the person’s partner is around, or whenever they can snatch a moment (or several hours). It’s the female advertising exec going into the office on a Sunday (!) the fund manager-mother writing a client presentation well into the night, the HR director getting up before her toddler does to sneak in a few precious hours of email catch-up. It’s not doing the work itself – all parents know you just have to juggle as best you can with small children – it’s the not getting paid for it.

The days of industrial hours working and bums-in-seats mentality need to be put behind us all. It doesn’t fit with today’s working cultures or with how we live, parent and work. It’s time for some new approaches and fresh thinking. Anna Whitehouse’s fantastic #flexappeal campaign is a making huge in-roads to the kind of change that is needed, but getting paid for the work, however it is achieved, is the crucial next step. Child care costs a fortune, let’s stop short-changing the great employees we have, just because they happen to be parents.

#workingparents #getpaidforwhatyoudo #stopproratingpay 

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