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Is Women’s Work Deemed Less Valuable? The Pay Gap

The gender pay gap and inequality in the workplace have always been a subject that has interested me. Why? I am a woman. This will potentially affect me if this tragically sexist and old-fashioned approach is not changed. Recently I have been doing some research and this is what I have found. 


Recently there has been a win as thousands of Asda supermarket workers have won their case at the Supreme Court in their fight for equal pay. The court decided that lower-paid shop staff, who are mostly women, can compare themselves with higher-paid warehouse workers, who are mostly men. They should be paid the same and not differently as neither job is particularly more difficult or more skilled than the other. 40,000 female employees at Asda fought for this case, so you can understand the pay gap was seen as being unfair to many.  


This is only one of many battles that have been fought or are being fought in the retail industry. In May of this year, 2,000 employees of the UK retailer Next plc, won the second stage of their equal pay claim. This is a similar case to the Asda one. In the second stage of the Next Equal Pay case, an employment tribunal ruling stated that the work of its predominantly female sales consultants was of equal value to warehouse jobs occupied by mainly male workers. 


Independent experts have found that the salespeople on shop floors are predominantly women. These women score more highly on average on various factors, such as knowledge and responsibility, than in distribution jobs, held mostly by men. Retail shop floor workers earn anywhere less between £1.50 - £3 an hour. Underneath all this tension and upset, it is hard to ignore the sneaky little thought that work performed by women must be deemed as less valuable. 


To think of a more important job than caring for children or the elderly is very difficult. These roles are often compared to angelic acts, however, when the wages for these roles are looked into it is found that they rarely command more than the national minimum wage. The ultimate causes of poor pay in these sectors are political. For example, social care and nursery provision are religiously underfunded. There has to be an answer as to how we got here. Why does it remain acceptable for pay rates in these vital sectors to be so low? Is sexism and misogyny part of the problem? Is this the answer?


The gender pay gap remains larger in the public sector at 15.1%. This compares with 8% in the private sector, and both are broadly similar to last year’s figures. In almost half of companies, male employees are paid at least 10% more than female employees at the same level. The statistics add up and do not look promising. With no change at all within the whole year it does not fill those who support this movement with much hope for change. The Fawcett Society, which campaigns for gender equality, said it was disappointing despite how much support the movement has, that progress had halted. The UK is behind countries such as France, Belgium and Sweden. In these countries, employers are made to address gender pay gaps directly. 


As a university graduate, I am concerned for my future career seeing these facts and statistics. I am entering a professional world that does not seem so professional after all. It can’t be if we are still faced with problems women faced in the 1950’s. This is dated, unfair and quite frankly, boring. 


 


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