Why we need more action on equal pay

Should we support the new equal pay measures? Surely it’s all a matter of common sense…

I’m all in favour of equal pay audits for public organisations and the removal of gagging clauses on pay as proposed by Harriet Harman, the current hate figure of the right-wing press. It’s always fascinating to find out that, as a woman, you are paid substantially less than your male colleagues. Particularly if you are a working mother who has taken a part-time role [where you do more or less the same amount of work as a full-time person]. It’s a great excuse to lower your salary. And women are so grateful for the chance to work part-time that they often take it. After all, you have to make compromises in this life. In many cases, I can’t understand why employers complain about taking on part-timers if it turns out they get highly qualified people who put in more hours than they are paid for.
In my humble experience, most women I have worked with have been paid less for doing equal work to their male colleagues. This, of course, is their own fault. They assume that their hard work will be recognised and they will get a pay rise. But the law of the jungle states that if you don’t ask, you don’t get. Also, they tend to come in on lower rates, for example, as secretaries, and their pay only rises in line with percentage increases in company pay. And when they move to the next job they are offered a salary which is broadly in line with what they were being paid before, thus cementing their lower pay status.
I’m with Harriet all the way. I’m not entirely sure of the practicalities of favouring a woman candidate over a man if both have equal qualifications and there are few women employed in the organisation. But I am certainly against the kind of arguments put up against such a move. They tend to centre on the idea that this is the nanny state telling companies what to do when companies have "common sense" and know who the best candidate for a job is. They pick them based on criteria like who will fit in best, who has the best "personality" for the job and so on.
If things are so hunky dory and everyone is behaving in such a rational, common sense way, why then is there so much discrimination? The facts don’t lie. Survey after survey shows there is a pay gap between men and women doing equal jobs. Survey after survey shows discrimination against ethnic minorities. Not every woman or every person from an ethnic minority, for sure. But a lot of them. "Common sense" is not going to change anything.

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