The IEA – Margaret Thatcher’s favourite think tank – has a proud record of challenging feminist narratives, and I was both pleased and surprised to read this in today’s Times, given that Times journalists almost never challenge feminist narratives. The paper has been described, accurately, as “achingly liberal”. The piece:
Amid the biggest health and economic crisis Britain has faced in peacetime, the Fawcett Society saw fit on November 20 to celebrate the highlight of its year: Equal Pay Day. As usual, it was accompanied by hysterical cries that women were “working for free until the end of December!”
It has been illegal since the 1970 Equal Pay Act to pay men and women different wages for the same work. Fawcett’s assertion is based on cherry-picking data that paints a misleading picture and feeds a tired narrative of sexism in the workplace.
What’s more, it uses mean rather than median data (in contrast with the Office for National Statistics), which enables it to include a small number of exceptionally high salaries, distorting the true picture. And it fails to take into account key differentials: the type of job, educational qualifications, work experience, or less tangible qualities that lead an organisation to rate one employee above another.
The real problem with the determination of groups like the Fawcett Society to “expose” gender pay gaps — such as the requirement for organisations with more 250 employees to publish wage data — is that it harms business. It triggers unjust demonisation of companies by comparing the salary of a male chief executive with that of a female trainee. It deters businesses from hiring female staff in lower-paid but essential roles. It sows discord among workers. And it tells young women that, no matter how hard they work or how talented they might be, they will never be as successful as their male counterparts.
In the coming weeks and months feminists will doubtless ramp up their panicked reports of women faring worse than men during the pandemic. This isn’t supported by the evidence. From July to September the female unemployment rate was 4.3 per cent, compared with 5.2 per cent for men. The redundancy rate, per thousand, was 10.9 for women and 11.6 for men. Women are disproportionately employed in the public sector, where workers are more concerned about salary freezes than they are about job losses.
The left’s fixation with pay needs to end. Why shouldn’t people choose careers that offer a better work-life balance or flexible hours instead of big headline salaries? Why should jobs be evaluated on wage rather than fulfilment? Far better to circumvent the obsession with female victimhood, celebrate the astounding revolution in women’s lives over the past century, and focus on those areas where women still deserve better. [J4MB: What areas might those be? I can’t think of any.]
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