Working mum

Do equal pay and feminism go hand in hand?

Equal pay and feminism - more than a mum

I tend to steer away from politics and Politics. I tend to keep my blog away from work related content, because this is my respite. In saying that, some of my most read points on this blog and my previous blog are related to feminism. So I hope you’ll forgive a little diversion from my usual content into the world of equal pay and feminism.

This week I was caught completely off guard to be found being asked after a rant about equal pay as to whether I considered myself a feminist.

As always, I answered the question honestly, I do consider myself a feminist.

What I find completely challenging is that for presenting an enthused response against the idea that the lack of pay equality is caused by women taking maternity leave, the response was to ask whether I was a feminist (“not that there’s anything wrong with that” coming quickly after).

And the thing which has challenged me more, was the conversation was with a HR professional.Equal pay and feminismI am vexed.

I love my job. 

And I love that because of how much travel there is in my role, I find myself agreeing to a drink after work and socialising with people beyond my usual social/ work circle.

I love this because I self identify as an introvert and socially awkward. And every sense of awkwardness is inside me as I approach the pub, but fortunately as an introvert with strong opinions I can find a groove.

Which probably lead to me challenging a woman in the company of three other men as to how the gender pay gap had much to do with women having babies.

Because I do understand that when you look at the construction sector as a whole, the overall suggested pay gap is influenced by which roles women undertake. And if they are predominately in lower paid roles, that the overall gap is misconstrued.

But I also understand that when my organisation introduced equal pay a number of years ago the problems it caused for me as a manager. Because due to the extent of the pay gaps within the same grades (roles) we couldn’t commit to bring everyone to the same level but we could commit to an approach which would over time. 

And I’m ok with that. Because I’ve had the benefit of working in a male dominated environment for the past sixteen years, prior to that I spent seven years working in a female dominated environment.

I understand recruitment techniques. That we recruit in our own image. That we need to be encouraged to think about and consider the impact of unconscious bias. Because it can be seen that unless we are encouraged to think about recruiting based on behaviours and skills rather than experience there seems to have been historically a need to offer salaries on an applicant’s ability to negotiate rather than their worth.

Rightly or wrongly I believe that, dependent on the job you are recruiting, you don’t want a blagger. You don’t want someone who believes they are worth more than the job is able to pay. You recruit for the job you have in hand.

I am so fortunate, that despite having worked in an organisation that previously left it down to a line manager to negotiate salary, that over five-year years ago a policy of equal pay came in to being.

Everytime I want to offer someone above the entry-level salary I need to justify why they are able to do the job they’ve never done before.

It’s challenged me. But I get it.

A couple of years ago I brought four people in on the same salary. Regardless of gender or ethnicity.

The problem which equal pay created was in addressing the years of poor behaviour by others.

People not negotiating a fair entry-level salary. Never to be made up in spite of years of demonstrating better than average performance.

People who were predominately female. And predominately young, without parenting responsibility.

Because this was nothing to do with having had time off to have babies. This was to do with a preference for recruiting older, white males who could negotiate higher salaries due to years of experience, against the backdrop of a changing culture of recruiting a more diverse age range, and women. And whilst whomever you recruit, you recruit based on an ability to do the role- and I’m not convinced why, when you have two people in the same role, that there should be a difference in what you pay them initially. Let them prove that they are capable in role and recognise them accordingly.

A difference in today, is that in addition to a focus on equal pay we also have a better offer as far as parental leave is concerned.

And we have a greater number of men taking on primary care of our children. This may not be anywhere near an equal level, but it is a greater number.

Nine years ago my partner became the primary carer for our daughter. Seven years ago he was primary carer for our three children. Our choices as a society are changing.

But whilst this might be linked to the glass ceiling, the gender pay gap is a little different.

In my sector it has can be evidenced as being caused by a manager’s freedom to negotiate salaries.

For the wider issue of females in executive roles there is so much more to do. That proportionately men who do not take parental leave achieve a greater number of promotions than women who do. But that’s different to a gender pay gap in the same role.

There is so much which can be achieved through targeting the problems which unfair practices create.

There is so much which can be achieved without a label.

I was completely ill-at-ease for presenting challenge and being offered a label in return.

Labels are the reason we have these problems. Understanding a label won’t solve the problem.

We should be free to own a label without facing judgement.

I own many labels – introvert; female; feminist; mother; creative; employee; friend; wife. None legitimise why unfair practices exist.A feminist motherBecause, despite my many labels, none legitimise a man earning more money for doing the same role.

Disclosure: I have accepted employment at less than the role was advertised. I wanted the job and didn’t appreciate my worth. Despite years of positive performance I couldn’t achieve the same salary of others in the same role of lesser performance. Unless, of course, the importance of equal pay was put on the agenda.

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