A Call to Arms for Gender Pay Equality

Vet John Taylor writes following the experiences of helping a number of women challenge unequal pay contracts:

“The hyperbolic headlines surrounding the publication of the latest SPVS survey has caused outrage and argument. Are women really paid less than men per hour for the same job? After the usual emotionally charged social media clash, I decided to try something out- I’d invite a female volunteer to work with me to get a salary raise.

I’ve been a bad employee, a good employee, a bad boss, and now hopefully am at least a boss who tries to improve. I’ve done years of life coaching, sports coaching, studied how personalities interact within the workplace and the psychology of influence. So I thought I might have something to offer.

After advertising my offer in the Veterinary Voices Facebook group, I was overwhelmed by requests for help, so I started to work with a number of volunteers. After getting some background on their current employment, I did some coaching on how best to go about asking for an increase in salary- how to justify their value to the business and why paying them more would be a good idea. In short how to persuade someone to give them more money.

But I was shocked to see that in 2 out of 3 cases, after getting the background information, I could see there was a strong claim for sexual discrimation in pay. Men were getting more money for the same job, doing the same hours.

It seems pay discrimination is a problem of neglect and incompetence, rather than active malice. As women progress through the course of their employment, on average they tend to take more time away to start families, and are less likely to ask for salary increases. Women tend to be more agreeable in the their relationships, and less likely to raise issues that may cause negative feeling.

Findings revealed that women experienced significantly more negative emotions from relationship conflict than men1

Conversations with employers and employee showed the root of the problem. Either employers recognised the disparity but did not understand the law, or employers did not even see the disparity. The law is clear, employers must give men and women equal treatment in the terms and conditions of their employment contract if they are employed to do: ‘like work’ – work that is the same or broadly similar, or work rated as equivalent under a job evaluation study, or work found to be of equal value in terms of effort, skill or decision making.2  Years qualified is not sufficient reason for the disparity- employers must show genuine reason if such a disparity exists.

The results of coaching were mixed; some volunteers were promised or given a raise, some were refused, and some found out exactly what their employers thought about them and resignations were threatened or enacted. No one was fired!  In all cases the volunteers thought it was a positive process. Having confronted a sensitive and difficult issue they felt more empowered within their job. They knew their attitude of their employers to their value, and felt more able to negotiate. In the case of resignations, addressing the problem lanced the abscess and they felt they could move on to better employment.

So what can we do about this?

Pay discrimnation is a thing, and women need to take bad employers to tribunals. These women need support, through greater education of their rights and in negotiation, and also in organising, perhaps through unions. They need to know that discussing their salary with other employees with reference to discrimination is protected in law and cannot be signed away in a contract. The finding of these tribunals need to be communicated to the profession at large, and bad employers brought to light. More people need to stop being passive recipients of a wage, and realise that the most precious thing they have – their time in this world – is valuable and must be negotiated for by an employee. Employers need to start considering raises through pay banding rather than the traditional hazard annual pay increase. We need more positive examples of employees confronting this issue and resolving it.”

1. To avoid or not to avoid? Gender and the emotional experience of relationship conflict http://repository.cmu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2498&context=tepper

2. ACAS Equal pay http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=1811

March 8th is International Women’s Day.  The World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap Report indicates gender parity is over 200 years away.  There has never been a more important time to keep motivated and #PressforProgress. Women’s equality has recently been fuelled by movements like #MeToo, #TimesUp.  There is a strong global momentum striving for gender parity.

If the issues in this article affect you and you would like advice and support to take action, use the contact form (a private email address which comes only to me). I will endeavour to connect individuals with resources and support, Liz

2 thoughts on “A Call to Arms for Gender Pay Equality”

  1. Scandals? We are still dealing with the “Scandal of discrimination, wage disparities, housing disparities, and the list goes on. Something the former Government paid zero attention too, not to mention the Generational wealth Gap created from past injustices, so unless you are out fighting for equality in EVERY form, let”s not cherry pick. online

    1. Hi – thanks for your comment. On International Womens’ Day it feels appropriate to focus on the gender pay gap in a feminizing profession. The law supports us here; it’s having the confidence and momentum for individuals to challenge employers to ensure equality.

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