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Women hold up half the sky?

Saturday 10 November this year was a significant date on the calendar of all working women in the UK. Not because we started the Christmas countdown (although kudos to you if you have). But because it was the day of the year, known as Equal Pay Day, that women effectively stopped being paid, according to research by the Fawcett Society.

This picture is even more bleak for ethnic minority women. While no clear data on this is available in the UK currently, the ethnic minority pay gap in the US at least shows that at its worst, Latina women on average earn about 54 cents for every dollar a white man makes, a statistic that is just astonishing.

With so much noise out there about the various gaps that exist between the sexes, from pay to pensions to investing, it’s easy for our eyes to glaze over at yet one more article focused on the issue. But let’s put this in context: the average Briton spends 3,507 days at work, or 13 years over the course of their lives. If you are someone that loves what you do so much you’d be happy to work for free anyway, that is amazing (you deserve a sainthood if this is the case). But given that the same study also revealed that British workers typically think about changing careers up to 10 times a year this is unlikely for the majority. As a woman, particularly working mothers for whom the gender pay gap is particularly acute (since a significant proportion of the disparity between salaries for men and women is attributed to the lifestyle changes prompted by childbirth), the opportunity cost of spending time away from loved ones, whether offspring or otherwise, is an increasingly hefty price to pay.

Whatever the case it’s the impact of this on our daily lives that really helps to sharpen our focus. The knock on effect of lower disposable income caused by this pay gap has a ripple effect that threatens the very fabric of society by artificially curbing the contribution women can make to boosting the economy and more specifically, helping themselves by saving and investing for later life.

With years of entrenched behaviours, mindsets and beliefs around women’s roles in the home and the workplace, clearly this isn’t a situation that will be turned around overnight. But habit or convention is no excuse for the continued inequality in pay. The devastating consequences of this for women can be seen in dozens of different ways, not least the prospect of pensioner poverty for millions.

If women hold up half the sky (or more if you ask us!) who could argue that we deserve to be paid less for our efforts?

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