Why The Gender Pay Gap Is A Societal Problem, Not A Women's Issue

by Carla McCormack

In the United Kingdom, the gender pay gap currently stands at 19.1 percent, and in the United States, women earned only 77 cents for every dollar men made in 2014.

We know women are more likely than men to hold low-paying jobs, with 25 percent of women in the UK earning below the living wage, compared to 15 percent of men.

In the US, you have a better chance of being made a CEO if you are called John than if you are a woman.

Not only is this bad for women, but also for child poverty figures.

In the UK, 92 percent of single parents are mothers, and children living in single-parent households are almost twice as likely to live in poverty.

Why should these parents struggle and their children be forced to go without because the government failed to act and tackle gender inequality once and for all?

The pay gap isn’t a new thing; it has always existed and there has been work done to tackle it. For example, the British Parliament passed the Equal Pay Act in 1970, but this was 45 years ago and women are still taking home less money every day, every week, every year.

Why? There are many reasons given for this – occupational segregation, caring responsibilities and, perhaps, most obviously, discrimination.

The truth is societies value women and their work less. The most important roles in our communities are caring ones, like social work and nursing, but because women are still often seen as somehow naturally more suited to care, they are often not properly remunerated for their work.

Women deserve better than this and should demand more, but equality isn’t just a women’s issue.

Women are not the cause of the pay gap — this much is obvious. So, why does the UK Government treat them as such? And, why are we accepting it?

In response to the gender gap, the UK Government recently published a booklet called "negotiating your salary." It claims to help women "understand the secrets to success in negotiation" and the Minister responsible at the time said:

“I want women to feel able to hold employers to account if they feel they are not being paid the same as their male colleagues and I hope this new booklet will be an important tool in helping them do that.”

Sadly, this misses the point completely and places the burden for closing the gap on women. Women didn't ask to be paid less than their male counterparts, so why does the UK Government suggest they should have to ask to get paid equally?

How is it that at the top level of government, the best solution is for women to negotiate pay raises?

The Equality Act 2010 states women should get equal pay for equal work, so it seems unfair that instead of going after bad employers, the government has, instead, put the onus on women to ensure they are being treated fairly in the workplace.

Women have had to fight for equality for too long, and it's sad to think what the suffragettes would think if they were here today, after winning the vote for women in the UK almost 100 years ago.

Would they believe that even now, in 2015, women are still not being treated equally to men?

Furthermore, would they be shocked to learn women were still being told that if they want equal treatment, they have to take on the responsibility to fight for it themselves?

Not all women will feel confident in approaching their bosses to ask for raises, especially an employer with dodgy pay practices. Perhaps. others will have no problem doing this, but the point is they shouldn’t have to.

The gender pay gap shouldn't even be a thing, but this publication gives it an air of legitimacy by telling women it's their problem to fix.

It’s time for the UK government to wake up and make equality a priority.

Businesses should not be able to get away with paying women less. Women have faced discrimination for too long to believe they are both the cause and solution to the gender pay gap.

The gender pay gap is a societal problem, so the government shouldn't try to make it a women’s issue.