This week I will make only a passing mention of the uproar surrounding Gavin Williamson and his inexcusable confusion of Maro Itoje and Marcus Rashford. Though I have been amused by the various memes (personal favourite being the Dalek being confused for R2D2) the situation itself is much graver than that. As a Black man who has been ‘mistaken’ for someone else on more than one occasion I find such incidents deeply upsetting and in my view racist.
However, this week I am going to save myself the personal trauma of exploring issues of race and instead focus on gender pay. Followers of he blog will know I am a big fan of sport. I was gripped to the golf every evening over the weekend. The viewing was compelling and reflected a wider growth in interest in women’s sport. The Women’s Football Super League is now on Sky and a record 130,000 spectators flocked to the Inverness Golf Club in Ohio to watch the Solheim Cup. The latter is an event where Europe’s female golfers take on their American counterparts. Though the event is very different from normal golf, with players competing in teams instead of individually, it highlighted the unbelievable gulf in prize money in the individual game.
Suzann Pettersen, a former Solheim Cup star, who played 315 events on the LPGA Tour, with 22 wins and who sits in sixth place on the all time money list won less prize money in her entire career than Patrick Cantlay did for winning the Tour Championship that took place the same weekend as the Solheim Cup. Just let that sink in for a moment. A highly decorated and exceptional female golfer won less money across her whole career in the sport than one male golfer did after two impressive performances in the end of season tour championship.
Though sport offers up a really extreme example of the pay gap challenge, we know that the issue runs right through society. The Fawcett Society, the UK’s leading membership charity campaigning for gender equality and women’s rights at work, at home and in public life, announced last year that Equal Pay Day 2020 (the day in the year when women effectively, on average, stop earning relative to men) was on 20th November. It remains unclear what impact the pandemic has had on the gender pay balance but it is important that we continue to collectively for equal pay in all walks of life.
There are signs of progress. In Ireland the men’s national football team have agreed to reduce their match fee, a reduction matched by the FAI to increase the women’s fee to ensure equal pay. It is a small but positive step and demonstrates what can be done where there is a will and commitment to equality.
This article by Timewise highlights some simple and effective ways of addressing the pay gap. The article focuses on research that identifies four key areas driving the pay gap:
1. There are more men in senior roles than women
2. Caring responsibilities and part-time roles are shared unequally
3. Women choose to work in low-paid roles and sectors
4. Women are paid less than men for the same role
The report also reveals that for three of the four there is a relatively straightforward solution: get better at flexible and part-time working. Perhaps as we move out of the pandemic, embrace hybrid working and continue to experiment with a four day working week: gender pay parity may occur in the not too distant future.