We need flexibility to close the gender pay gap

The shocking figures that lay bare the gender pay gap in companies across Britain has us all pretty riled up, and quite rightly so.

Now that 10,000 companies have shown us how stark that pay gap is, we know that 78 per cent of firms pay men more than women on average. Let’s allow that figure to sink in for a second.

Three-quarters of firms have more highly paid men than women on their payroll. That is absolutely unacceptable. This issue should not be confused with the equal pay gap – as by law men and women with the same job must be paid the same wages.

Nope, this is about women who have been deemed less experienced than their male counterparts or who have been hit with a “mummy pay penalty” after taking maternity leave.

I’ve seen a few companies scrambling to come up with excuses. Some saying that they have a large number of staff working in manual roles that attract more men than women, or others like Ryanair saying that men take up pilots roles while women tend to be lesser paid cabin crew. A statement intended to explain the problem, but that actually is utterly demeaning. Only men can handle flying the planes, women stick to serving the tea.

The truth of the matter is there are still outdated attitudes in the workplace about jobs for the boys and jobs for the girls. As a mum though I think there is a second tier to that, one that sets out jobs for the child-free and jobs for those with kids.

Oh, Sue can’t possibly do the new supervisor job, she wouldn’t be able to stay at work past 5pm because she has to collect her children.

And it’s not just about the fact that mums have had to take time out for maternity leave. As the Office for National Statistics says, figures show that women taking time out for childcare only explains 36 per cent of the variation in pay.

An attitude exists that women who have had kids are no longer ambitious, no longer wish to climb the ladder at work.

It’s this attitude that has me really wound up, because I can’t see an end to it.

I honestly believe that those of us who become mummies can suffer the consequences for the rest of our career.

We spend the early years of our kids’ lives desperately trying to juggle working hours with drop-offs and pick-ups at nursery, while occasionally being knocked back completely when our kid is sick for two weeks and we have to take time out to look after them.

Then there comes the school years, when we have to somehow figure out how to get our kids to school at 8.30am and collect them at 3pm, when our working hours are 8am to 5pm.

And what about the parents’ evenings, the school plays that happen in the middle of the day and the sports days? How can working parents attend all of these events? How can we be expected to work two full-time jobs that run concurrently?

Women who are well paid already can hire a nanny, or childminder, and those with family nearby can rely on them to fill in the gaps wherever possible.

But what about those who cannot afford the extra help or have no family nearby? It’s not just a matter of muddling through, it’s a matter of being forced to not apply for the promotion, to avoid looking at jobs that involve working additional evenings at short notice.

The trouble is that so many jobs with a lot of responsibility – and are therefore better paid – involve rubbish hours.

I am not saying that mums want to be treated differently, that we want to get away with doing less work. No one should get preferential treatment just because they pushed a baby out.

Actually what I’m saying is that it’s time for employers to be more flexible. Can we please at least acknowledge the fact that after we have children, we cannot work the same relentless hours, at least not in the office for the traditional 9am to 5pm.

Can we stop the eye rolling when a woman says they can’t work an 8am to 7pm day because they have to pick up the kids at 4pm. Instead perhaps when a woman asks to do the rest of her hours at home, this could simply be approved with a nod of the head, and no further huffing and puffing about it.

We need to start seeing that mums have just as much to offer the workplace as anyone else, and deserve those higher paid roles as much as the next person. And no, they don’t deserve those jobs because they are a mum, they deserve them if they are the best person for the job.

We are living in a modern, digital age when the potential for remote working is incredible. Why do women have to have their bums on seats in the office for 12 hours a day in order to be considered deserving of the top jobs in companies?

That 78 per cent gender pay gap is not going to close itself. We need positive action from employers, and we need women to stand up for themselves and ask for this flexible working.

Know your worth mummies.

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