Wednesday, 26 April 2017

The Fight for Equal Pay



Here's an article by an academic from Bath University who argues that underlying gender and psychological differences may help to explain the 'pay gap' between male and female jobs.

Now this is a load of old bollix if you ask me, because women are often unaware of these pay differences and there are many examples in Scotland of council employers and trade unions working together to keep women workers in the dark.

Glasgow City Council, North Lanarkshire Council and South Lanarkshire Councils all spring to mind and although new legislation is coming into force in April 2017 that will force large employers to publish annual pay data on their gender 'pay gaps', experience tells me that this information will not be open and transparent.

Council employers across Scotland concealed the truth from their women workers for years until Action 4 Equality Scotland came along and explained the huge differences in pay between male and female jobs.

Many of these councils were Labour controlled and claimed to be big supporters of equal pay and freedom of information (FoI), yet when the chips were down the truth had to be dragged out of them via public campaigning and legal action through the courts.

The reality is that council jobs in Scottish local government are still segregated along gender lines and unlike other countries you see very few women working in traditional male areas even though these jobs attract significantly higher pay. 

    

Why women and men too easily accept the gender pay gap


By Chris Dawson - The Conversation

Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) in Business Economics, University of Bath

Money matters. Shutterstock

Large employers in the UK will have to publish from April annual data on their gender pay and bonuses gaps. While under the Equal Pay Act it is illegal to pay men and women differently for doing the same job, figures from the Office for National Statistics puts the gender pay gap for full-time employees in 2016 at 9.4% in the UK. The reasons for this substantial difference in earnings are often attributed to occupational segregation by gender, driven by differences in education, accumulated experience and discrimination.

But recent research has instead focused on underlying gender differences in preferences and psychological attributes which may affect choice of work, and therefore help to explain the gender pay gap.

For instance, women may seek different career paths and value aspects of employment such as flexibility and a pleasant working environment instead of focusing directly on pay. On the whole, women tend also to be more risk averse than men and have lower preferences for competitive situations which can both lead to career choices with lower earnings than men.

So psychology seems to provide a fruitful area for explaining the gender pay gap. The focus of my own research into this subject is a particularly pertinent psychological trait, that of optimism. By optimism, I specifically mean systematically biased beliefs in the probability of doing well.

Psychologists have documented our tendency to view ourselves in implausibly positive ways and our absurd belief that our future will be better than the evidence of the present can possibly justify. However, when it comes to assessing our competence, our ability and our future prosperity, men really do overestimate themselves while women are typically more pessimistic. I found that this difference between men and women can really matter in matters of employment.

Optimism affects the satisfaction we get from our pay. While we know that women face a substantial wage penalty compared to men, they also tend to be more generally satisfied with their work and income. This is a counter-intuitive situation. We would expect those who get paid the most (men) to be the most satisfied. Here is where optimism, our biased perception of the future comes into play. The satisfaction we gain from our wages is to some extent based upon our expectations. Receiving £10 when you are expecting £5 feels pleasing. But receiving £10 when you are expecting £20 feels disappointing.

If women are predisposed to underestimating themselves and their labour market prospects, as my study finds, they will continue, on the whole, to be satisfied with such pay inequality. This is a worrying state of affairs. We tend to search for new jobs when we feel that some aspect of our current occupation, such as pay, can be improved upon. But if we are satisfied, we stay in that job, we don’t negotiate and we don’t ask for that promotion.
Battle of the sexes

For men it’s the opposite story. They constantly overestimate themselves, widening their vulnerability to inevitable disappointment. Disappointed workers negotiate, they always ask for promotions and are happy to switch employers to improve upon aspects of their jobs which they feel can be bettered. 

Fighting since the 1950s. PA

So optimism pays off in the labour market – it drives the pursuit of employment with better wages. Optimism may also be beneficial in other ways. Psychologists have often linked optimism with motivation and our ability to cope with stress. Believing in ourselves and in our abilities may also help us to convince others, especially our boss, that we are brilliant.

After all, to convince others of your competence, you really need to believe it yourself. If psychology is the problem – even in labour markets with no discrimination – women will continue to earn less, simply because they are too easily satisfied with lower pay.

It is difficult to know how laws and policy makers can solve this pessimistic female outlook, since personality traits tend to be established and fixed early on in pre-adult life. But perhaps one step in the right direction would be for employers to adjust their recruitment and promotion policies, by pulling up women with potential instead of waiting for them to come knocking.