Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Equal pay?

Regular readers to TOE will know that I am not your average bra-burning feminist. Often feminist tyrades annoy me rather than draw my support because I dislike positive discrimination and don't see that "women" as a collective should particularly get more help to achieve something than a man. I hold that opinion because I was raised in a household where the fact that I am female was entirely irrelevant - I could still help my dad lay a patio, work in technology... and wear beautiful shoes. Essentially the parentals equipped me to make the most of life and aim to achieve to the best of my personal ability.

However, just occasionally I realise that I have been relatively lucky never having encountered sexism. Although I do occasionally walk into a client meeting aware that I need to lay the (aging, male) CEO out with my deep industry knowledge I tend to believe its my age more than my sex that makes him pre-conceive me in this way. And I do lay him out, and we are all happy.

In my company the very idea that men might be paid more than women for the same role is downright bizarre, however that's exactly the hot water that the FT has found itself in today. An 11% pay difference is reported, to which the managing editor has said "Pay within the editorial department is negotiated on an individual basis, usually with me, and I reject the implication that I am systematically or deliberately paying women less than men."

But I can't help wondering...

Women's career breaks are blamed, and as the Media Guardian points out in its article, the news team is overwhelmingly male dominated. So perhaps the pay gap is not the issue, and we should be asking instead why the FT is not an appealing workplace for experienced female journalists. They exist in their droves, and (career break or not) many certainly should command the same salary as the top dogs over at the FT.

I am quite confident that the individual women concerned are capable of looking after themselves. But the FT? It should probably work on making the paper appeal to the female employee if it is to continue to lead the industry on its reporting... reporting about a business world in which (thankfully) women have an enormous stake and impact.


Melissa said...

Hmmmm. There are as many types of feminisms as there are feminists - but most mainstream feminists nowadays are not interested in discrimination of any kind - but of equality between the sexes. As you say, it shouldnt be an issue what your gender is. For some people it still is, which is why there has to be legislation to provide a legal framework to encourage and uphold equality.

With negotiable salaries - there is evidence to suggest women are just not as pushy as men, in general, and dont put themselves forward for promotion, demand payrises, or play hardball when it comes to money. That may change as a younger generation (such as you and I) are coming through, and saying - bring it on. It's difficult to legislate for that, though, and dependent on women (or men) getting their facts straight and speaking up when they notice any problems.

Should organisations make themselves more attractive to women? Its a fact of life that some places are going to be tough to work in - cutthroat to get the job, and a hard place to keep on top of things. I'm not saying the FT is like that, but it may be that in some cases women do have a different perspective and dont want the hassle of being in such an environment. The key - about equality - is that if they do want to work there, they should be offered the same opportunities as men, have the same hiring and firing regime, have the same contracts, the same access to negotiable salary, the same benefits - but really it is up to the individual to go for it, and to point out any discrepancies when they arise, and, as you say, to knock people's socks off with their knowledge, wit, intelligence, and ability, whatever their age, race or gender.

I'm a strong believer that, in many cases, many women could make the world better for themselves by being a little more forthcoming, or going for what they want, and believing in themselves. And when they come up against discrimination - then it really makes a difference for individuals to use the legislative directives to fight the good fight.

Remember - although the UK still has a way to go, we are streets ahead of other countries in this area. In the US, things like this still happen regularly...

Almost a Lady said...

I wrote this on the train and now I finally come to post it I think I'm echoing some of the spirit of Melissa's comment.

This is really two comments in one.

The first is that your introduction reminds me of something I've noticed more than once over the last couple of years. When did feminism become a dirty word? Surely what feminism means, or should mean, is quite simply equality, the same rights for men and women. Isn't that what the movement was originally about? The recognition that while you're physically different, you can have the same mental abilities and facilities as a peer of the opposite sex, and you deserve the same opportunities?

The fact that you feel you have to excuse yourself before saying anything that might, gasp, be categorised by a reader as "the F word" is really sad to me. In fact, I'm in agreement with you - there is an incredible amount of harm done by the "all men are b*stards" school of thought. But please don't let a few noisy sexists - and sexism is exactly what that attitude is - overweigh the fact that that there are still a lot of industries and a lot of workplaces where women are discriminated against simply because of their gender. And that's just using the safe, UK workplace example - the world is not a nice place for a lot of women, because they are still perceived as second class citizens. There's still a long way to go before we reach real equality (no matter how easy it may be for you and me) - and as long as you believe that women and men have the right to be treated fairly and equally, I'm sorry to break it to you - but you're one of us. Say it with me... it doesn't hurt ;)

Comment number two. You've raised the very interesting question of whether high-profile female journalists *want* to work in places like the FT. I don't know what the FT working environment is like, but I wonder if there's a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation. If there is, somewhere within an organisation, an inclination to pay women less, surely you will eventually put off the top candidates - because they can do better elsewhere, and not just financially. I wonder if anyone has looked at the male to female ratio in different national newspapers, how it varies across the board and whether it changes as you move up through the ranks. Maybe also the extent to which it's changed over the last, say, ten years. Might make an interesting read... anyone out there want to pick it up? ;)

Melissa said...

Interesting blog post about misunderstanding what "feminism" is - which I think sheds some light on why it is treated as a dirty word, rather than about equality and equal rights. Which we all believe in, right? right?

Melissa said...

And read this too...

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