The gender pay gap should be everyone’s concern

This blog is personal and it’s not my usual ‘marketing’ topic.  It is, however, about a major challenge facing many businesses – gender pay parity. The issues that we need to rectify are having a huge, detrimental, effect on our economy and productivity for women and for men. I think it’s sad that we still need to address them in 2018, decades after the equal pay and conditions of employment act.

When I grew up, my mum had high hopes that the discrimination she experienced in the workplace would be a thing of the past for me. She worked as a hospital pharmacist, stopped work to look after children in the 1960’s then returned to part time employment in the 70’s. Because she felt that drug treatments had changed in the time she was away from work she initially went back as an unpaid volunteer so that she could update her knowledge. She then went on to work until retirement in the health service. For many years she was unable to get a promotion from her basic grade or allowed to join a pension scheme because she worked part time.

When I started work in the 1980’s I will admit to being somewhat naïve about the world of work and the management culture. I was lucky, I had a good science degree, I interviewed well, and I worked in graduate roles from the start. However, I wasn’t prepared in any way for building a career. I was later to find out that getting married meant, for the man, a promotion and pay rise because of the ‘additional responsibilities’. For the woman it meant the opposite, you were placed first on the redundancy list because your (male) managers thought your husband would look after you financially.

I vividly remember in one role being disciplined because I talked to my colleagues about what we were paid. Because I was more experienced and better qualified than my colleagues this meant I earned more, however that particular conversation cost me a wage freeze.

In another role I was told there wasn’t any point applying for a promotion because the nature of the job – dealing with the construction industry – meant they wouldn’t interview or appoint a woman. A female colleague in my department kept her typing skills secret for fear she would treated like one of the typing pool secretaries rather than  like the manager she was.

After a house move to accommodate my husbands’ new job I was unable to find any work because I was pregnant. Trying to find part time work was difficult as I was informed I was ‘overqualified’ for many of the roles I applied for.

After successfully working on a fundraising project for the fundraising manager at a local charity I turned down the opportunity to work as assistant to the CEO because he wanted to halve my hourly wage. I often wonder if he would have offered the same deal to a man.

After retraining through the Open University I moved into teaching. At this time in my life  I was juggling a young family and work. I wasn’t allowed to join the pension scheme as an NQT (newly qualified teacher) because I only worked a (part time) 90% timetable, a role in which I had to be on site full time.

Today I am a co-director in a family business and I’m very happy to report that we have gender parity in the Boardroom. It’s the only time in my career it’s happened!

What’s sad is that I hear so many stories today about women who still face the same sort of discrimination. This is definitely not what I envisaged for my own daughters. Women tend to work hard and hope that our bosses will notice the great contribution we make to the business. We often don’t have the benefit of role models and mentors and, generally we’re not good at blowing our own trumpet. If we have the misfortune to look as if we know what we’re about in the workplace we’re branded as ‘scary’ or ‘queen bees’ and still don’t get promoted at the same rate as the men. In applying for a new job we make sure we can manage all of the job description before we’ll put our names forward, in contrast to our male colleagues who are more comfortable taking a punt.

For our family, as my girls move into work, they represent the third generation of women who are not getting fairly rewarded for their talents and skills.

I welcome the requirement for businesses to report on gender and pay. I understand that the raw data figures are not as helpful as requiring organisations to report on pay at each grade, but it is a start. We are only asking for parity between the sexes, not preferential treatment. There are many men in the workplace who want to take on a more active role in bringing up their families and there are some who will need to juggle care for their parents whilst in full time work. There is much to do but, at long last, the many reasons why talented women give up, give in or resign from middle management are being openly discussed in our Boardrooms. My wish for my girls are that real changes will materialise as more women demand their rights and shape the politics of the organisations they so ably serve.