Sophie Wilkinson | Contributing Editor | Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Gender Pay Gap? First David Cameron Needs To Lead By Example

Gender Pay Gap? First David Cameron Needs To Lead By Example

The Debrief: He’s got plans but is he doing enough himself, within his own party, to make change happen?

David Cameron has written a heart-string-tugging piece in The Times today calling for the gender pay gap to be closed, so that when his daughters, Florence and Nancy, start working: ‘I want them to look back at the gender pay gap in the same way we look back at women not voting and not working — as something outdated and wrong that we overcame, together.’

And he’s got some big ideas as to how we’re going to topple the pay gap, in which women earn 80p to men’s £1.

1. The Living Wage + Publishing Salaries

He claims the introduction of a £7.20 per hour Living Wage will ‘primarily help women, who tend to be in lower-paid jobs. It will help close the gender pay gap. But we need to go further, and that’s why introducing gender pay audits is so important.’

It’s true that this pay rise could help some women – though it’s not actually enough of a rise, as we told you last week. But another trend he’s missed out on is that women tend to work in the public sector, and that with the cuts the coalition and this new Tory government have dished out, the number of women working in the public sector has gone from 1.43 million to 253,600.

He also wants to get companies with more than 250 employees to publish breakdowns of salaries by gender, which could either make companies sack their lower paid female staff in favour of male cleaners and administrators, for example, so as to re-balance their gender split on wages, or get them to start paying women a bit more.

2. Ambition

‘We must widen girls’ horizons. We need to show schoolgirls that there are no no-go professions’, and to do this, Cameron says that a careers service will put ‘businesses at the helm’. Which gives businesses a lot of responsibility. And as for those no-go professions? Cameron shows off in his piece that the Government now has more than 30% women in its ranks.

But he failed to mention that in his own party, it’s just 20% (Labour pulls the average up because 42.7% of their MPs are female). Maybe he could help broaden horizens within his own ranks before pointing his finger elsewhere? Otherwise it’s a very ‘do as I say, not as I do’ mantra he’s selling.

3. Helping women reach the top

Cameron wants lots of female CEOs, but doesn’t want quotas to enforce this, presuming that companies will just… do the right thing. ‘Without legislation and without arbitrary quotas, you can bring about change. In just five years, women on FTSE 100 boards have increased from 12.5 per cent to a quarter.’

You are now free to imagine how many female CEOs there’d be with a quota in place…

4. Childcare

We’ll admit this is not our forte, but we can see he’s made big steps to improve childcare for women with kids, because motherhood seems to be the point at which the gender pay gap starts.

That said, as much as child-rearing is expensive and a huge impact on a woman’s working life, we’d like to see a little investigation into childless women’s working life, or even just the working lives of young women starting out in their careers.

Is absenteeism affecting more women than men? Are women too afraid to ask for pay rises when they’ve just started out in a way that men just aren’t? Is ‘imposter syndrome’ more of a thing with women than men? How are young women going to be affected, long-term, by higher university fees, the cap on student maintenance loans and the ban on 18-21 year-olds claiming housing benefit? Will they be affected in a way young men won’t?

It’s all worth looking at because the coalition scrapped Equality Impact Assessments – the very tests designed to ensure that new government policy won’t disproporionately let down minorities.

Of course, the bid to tackle the gender pay gap is important, and we’re glad it's being acknowledged by the Prime Minister, but it looks as if Cameron could do a better job of convincing companies to do things his way if he led by example.

Like this? You might also be interested in:

Six Reasons The ‘Living’ Wage Is Nonsense

Six Massive Reasons The Budget Is Balls For Women Like You

UK Among Worst Offenders For Gender Pay Gap

Follow Sophie on Twitter @sophwilkinson

Tags: Work it, Pure Politics, Money worries, Sexism