Tackling the gender pay gap requires more than just lip service | Letters

Reporting should improve the standard of debate, argues Julian Jessop of the Institute of Economic Affairs, while Vanessa Olorenshaw laments a model of equality based on our capitalist system

One of the potential benefits of gender pay gap reporting is that it can inform and improve the standard of debate about equality in the workplace. This is something we would all support. Unfortunately, your interactive tool allowing readers to calculate “when does your company stop paying women in 2018?” is a big step backwards. It would only make sense to claim that women are “effectively working for free” if the gender pay gap data are evidence of unequal pay for comparable jobs of equal value. However, as your own coverage makes clear, this is not necessarily the case. Pay gaps reflect a myriad of other factors, including occupation, seniority and hours worked.

Your tool does not allow readers to calculate when men start working “for free” at the small but not insignificant number of companies where there is a gender pay gap in favour of women. That’s a shame, because understanding what’s happening at these companies would also help the debate. But perhaps this would not fit the narrative.
Julian Jessop
Chief economist, Institute of Economic Affairs

• As a former founding member of the Women’s Equality party (and whose contribution to policy called loudly but in vain for the recognition of the unwaged care work of women), I read the headline of Sandi Toksvig’s article (The gender pay gap isn’t the half of it: our economy runs on women’s unpaid work, 9 April) with optimism. It certainly suggested that the WEP’s lens on this is shifting.

However, the article fails to go beyond lip service while continuing to cheer a model of equality based on the very economic system that exploits us: one of equality in a world that takes public and paid work under patriarchal norms as the default. Widening wealth inequality is only going to get worse without fundamental change to how we measure that which is valuable.

It is not enough to state that our economy runs on women’s unwaged work without any hint of how to do better. We need a transformed economic model that recognises and remunerates caring work as central to human need. One that takes into account the attachment needs of the most vulnerable and marginalised under current thinking about childcare: babies and young children. We need creative ways to ensure that women are not penalised for having children and – if and when we choose – taking time out of the workforce to care for them. We need a transformed economic model that embraces those returning to the workforce as having something to offer. What is needed now is women’s liberation as opposed to mere equality.
Vanessa Olorenshaw
Author, Liberating Motherhood: Birthing the Purplestockings Movement, Sevenoaks, Kent

• Join the debate – email guardian.letters@theguardian.com

• Read more Guardian letters – click here to visit gu.com/letters

Letters

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Delving deeper into the gender pay gap | Letters
Letters: Naomi Wayne says lessons can be learned from 1970s activism. Dr Stephen Vallely says all NHS consultants, whether male or female, are paid on exactly the same salary scale. Danny Dorling takes issue with the the Oxford Diocesan School Trust. And Ann Pask says Britain should not still be waiting for a living wage

Letters

03, Apr, 2018 @5:25 PM

Article image
Welcome discussions on the menopause and work | Letters
Letters: Readers respond to recent Guardian articles about the menopause

Letters

27, Aug, 2019 @5:14 PM

Article image
Courtesy, curtness and my gender pay gap report | Letters
Letters: Kate Andrews of the Institute of Economic Affairs responds to a recent column by Zoe Williams; Elizabeth Manning points out the old pound coins in the illustration accompanying the piece

Letters

24, Apr, 2019 @5:13 PM

Article image
How to get good women on boards | Letters
Letters: Companies need to stop looking for women whose backgrounds replicate those of men, writes Barbara Stocking, and Charmaine Fletcher laments how good women are still having to rely on men to employ them

Letters

05, Jun, 2018 @4:18 PM

Article image
Gender pay inequities in Matt Hancock’s health sphere | Letters
Letters: Dr Carole Easton points out that the Department of Health reports a gender pay gap of 10.5%, as opposed to the 23% in the NHS, while Ted Watson says it is not obesity that has made the health service broke

Letters

25, Apr, 2019 @4:25 PM

Article image
Birth, breastfeeding, and women’s choices | Letters
Letters: I salute women who wait to have children, writes Roz Treadway. Plus responses from Jan Dubé and Kirtana Chandrasekaran to Zoe Williams’ criticism breastfeeding campaigners

Letters

23, Apr, 2019 @5:23 PM

Article image
Gender pay gap is even worse than the figures suggest | Letters
Letters: The methodology used to calculate the gap is itself discriminatory and underestimates the difference between women’s and men’s earnings, says Anne Ashe

Letters

08, Apr, 2019 @5:00 PM

Article image
Gender pay gap widening for women in their 20s, data shows
Figures show gap in age group is five times greater than six years ago, with some women starting careers worse off than male counterparts

Alexandra Topping

10, Nov, 2017 @12:01 AM

Article image
Valuing only work that generates profit is not just wrong, it's inhuman | Deborah Orr
Deborah Orr: Money is just a cargo cult, one that has been wrongly and wilfully elevated to the status of a pseudo-science

Deborah Orr

27, Apr, 2012 @6:00 PM

Article image
Closing the entrepreneurship gender gap would bring huge gains to all of us | Letter from Cherie Blair
Letter: As well as boosting global GDP by 2% or $1.5tn, it would unleash new ideas that to drive scientific breakthroughs, fuel solutions to the world’s problems and transform our lives, says Cherie Blair

Letters

03, Oct, 2018 @5:30 PM