As a working woman in the 1960’s, my grandmother was paid significantly less than her male counterparts. But it wasn’t a problem for her as she would be expected to leave her job once she got married. Sixty years later, and two generations on, we commonly assume out-of-date workplace norms are a thing of the past.
Working as a waitress during her gap year a couple of years ago my sister was paid twenty percent less than her male colleagues. On raising this issue with her manager he skirted around the issue, clutching at straws, he produced false excuses in an attempt to avoid the real reason; which was her gender.
Why is this still remotely acceptable and widespread within our society?
Girls routinely outperform boys in schools, this trend continues at university yet when entering the workplace women are continually sidelined and left behind by the men they previously outperformed. As you can imagine, there are plenty of shameful statistics some more laughable than others, my favourite being that there are more company CEOs with the name John than female CEOs.
This humiliating statistic might highlight the disparity, but the real issue that should be addressed is why women are not as valued within the workplace. However, naturally there is an inescapable reason most women don’t rise within the workplace at the same rate as John. Or Richard, or David, or Michael. Motherhood. I have a friend who grows functioning human hearts from stem cells in a lab- proving the wonders of modern science. In keen contrast, the biological barrier of pregnancy, a phenomenon as old as humankind still hampers female progress. Reproduction is punished with reduced wages.
Unfortunately, there is social stigma surrounding childcare, mothers are far more likely than fathers to work part time or indeed leave the workplace to care for their children. Furthermore, women are more likely than men to have reduced working hours to act as a carer. Indisputably, these are crucial social roles yet why is there not more widespread equality? Perhaps there still remains, as there did for my grandmother, a social expectation that the role of motherhood should be prioritised over any previous professional role. Men have escaped this expectation, their identity isn’t as irrevocably changed by parenthood.
The gender pay gap may only be resolved once outdated gender stereotypes are efficiently addressed. Hopefully in another sixty years time our granddaughters will only be aware of the gender pay gap in their history lessons, and if the name John comes back into fashion it’ll be matched equally with Jennifers as CEOs.