Men and women need to join forces on unequal pay

Equal pay is as much about men as it is about women.

Letters on a pinboard spelling out 'gender equality'


I’ve spent the early part of the week reading about equal pay. There have also been the usual surveys about women not asking for more pay in the same way men do, although different research studies seem to diverge on this. But one thing that really struck me reading Carrie Gracie’s book Equal is the role of men in advocating for equal pay.

In the book she mentions men who have taken pay cuts, men who have stood up for women in equal pay cases or insisted on their female colleague being paid the same as them. She writes: “Men can neutralise an employer’s defence of unequal pay. I know of one case at the BBC where this has worked. A woman was accompanied at an informal pay hearing by her male comparator who insisted their work was equal and invited the hearing panel to picture both of them in retirement, him with a far higher quality of life due to decades of the higher pension entitlements that came with his higher salary. Her pay was corrected quickly and painlessly.”

She speaks too of male ally groups in US business schools whose members “make a commitment to help end gender discrimination both through advocacy and through growing awareness of their own attitudes and behaviour”.

Such examples will hopefully flourish because it is in both men and women’s interests for women to be paid fairly. When it comes to families, for instance, it makes sense for mothers and fathers to join forces. If a mother is paid less than she deserves, that will have repercussions for the dad because the family income will be less than it should be. He may have to work longer hours. We know from surveys that men are fed up with the long-hours, always on culture; that it is leading to mental health problems. Women may also have to work longer hours, meaning the pressure on the family is greater. Children will be affected.

Unfair pay, including pay that does not allow for a decent standard of life, is an attack on a healthy family life and women are still the most likely to be in the lowest paid jobs. Numerous court cases are being taken out to address why typically female jobs are paid less than typically male ones. In a world where everyone has to work, where prices are likely to rise after Brexit and where many, many families are on the brink financially, we need to restructure pay, make it more transparent and make the case that the fight against unequal pay is not just a female thing. It is in everyone’s interests for pay to be fair.

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