Monday 30 April 2018

The gender pay gap? No one told me!

The gender pay gap is something I have never experienced. I know it exists. I witnessed it all the time. Yet it definitely is not the patriarchy thing its feminist believers think it is.

On the pyramid of management, I was at every one of those levels, bar CEO, in the same company. I joined as a  supervisor and left as a regional manager. 

In my firm, which was a predominantly menswear fashion chain, there was very nearly parity between numbers of male and female supervisors. Which is quite amazing. Fashion retail offers a generous 25%-50% discount for employees. So women tend to favour working in female fashion chains and vice versa. A supervisor earns a little more than minimum wage.

Up the rung is deputy or assistant manager. Capable but usually inexperienced. Many areas of expertise lacking but enough basic knowledge to get the job done and follow orders. Initiative can be highly variable between them. At this level still roughly parity in numbers of males and females. 

Up next. The branch manager. Here the split begins. In fashion a branch manager can be any age. But twenty five is a good level of maturity and experience. 
The branch manager has a hefty workload. But commands their unit. They mostly hire and fire and budget and are expected to know their job. The hand holding is over at this level. performance is key.

In my day it was 35-65% women to men managers. The 25 age tells you something about the decline. Its baby time. The drop out rate for maternity begins. And it was fatal. In TEN YEARS as a regional manager I had exactly ONE female manager return to her role as store manager on the same hours and contract as when she left. This is simply because its almost impossible to do the job with a child without much 'free' grandparent/neighbour/sister cover. The hours are 8-6pm or 8-8pm Mon-sat, PLUS Sunday. Plus every bank holiday including Christmas. The pay isn't good enough to afford childcare and be worthwhile. For all the grief involved a full time manager might be working 50 hours a week for just £5,000pa after tax and expenses. 
So the option of part-time work is very attractive.

For chains they can have a highly skilled, suddenly lowly paid, part time team member. 
For the mother its fixed hours. No nights. No weekends and can be fitted around childcare. And HMG is picking up the tab for 15-30 hours of the childcare for 3-4 year olds.  
It suits everyone.

However, the downside is something common to everyone in work. The new mother is out for 5-10 years. While her male colleagues are in. And rising up.

At the Area manager level, which is someone multi-site managing, the female rate is down again. No more than 30%. And that's with senior managers and HR {almost exclusively female? Office hours see..} demanding more female hiring.
Its a better job with better hours. And better perks and higher salary. But its much more stressful. Discipline. Criminality. Legal. Reports. Presentations. Special areas of responsibility. And personal responsibility for all those below.

And its a very lonely change. Previously managers have their branches and their teams. And work alongside many varied characters, The area manager is on their own. A team of one driving around in the traffic  all day. Its not a very sociable role at all.

Then regional.  North. South. London. 
We had 5 regional managers. Only 1 woman. 20%.
 Like me, the others had risen from the floor to the top tier. The lady had no children. The female area managers below, mostly no children.

Its not a mystery, is it? Any reader can look at their own industry and find similarities. 

I was at each level. From recruiting for part time, to setting the annual wage budgets and payscales for each area and each branch and each manager. Not once, at any of those levels, was I ever asked, or ever thought, to pay a woman less than a man just because she had more estrogen. It just never occurred. 

Yet, one time on a check from HR, it was discovered female managers were being paid about 15% less overall. 
The explanation, after much data mining, was the women had been more loyal. Their average length of service was greater. So they were receiving annual pay rises. Didn't move locations as much as their male colleagues. And didn't jump ship for more money.  At the lower levels, they did. But not so much at management. Maybe only a third as likely to leave for another job as the men.

On maternity issues, its often thought women won't be hired as often as men. Because of the very harsh maternity payments that cause all sorts of problems financial problems for a very small business. But in a large one, mine had 1500 employees at its peak, its irrelevant.  Even with the lousy stats for returning from maternity it didn't matter. If they became pregnant they were just a pending vacancy. As I wrote earlier, only one ever came back to the exact same role.
So the subject of 'likely to become pregnant?' wasn't raised at recruitment. Not just because its illegal but because it really doesn't matter. The future is unknown. Today's problems are in need of solutions today. Sort the present.
So. The gender pay gap. It does exist. But only for the endlessly discussed and already revealed reasons. There isn't a conspiracy. Or if there is, no one ever told me about it. Nor anyone I knew. Even when we were supposedly the people devising and implementing the gender outrage.
The government can make companies 'report' all day long. The recent data set was designed to show a problem. And the gender pay gap does exist.
But not for the reasons parliamentarians are convinced it exists.

If any government really wanted to get women straight back to work, childcare as a tax deduction would fix the problem as much as it could possibly be fixed. Especially at the lower to middle level pay scales. 

But everyone knows all of this already. I'm amazed it comes up every year and is a hot media talking point for weeks on end.


formertory said...

Working hours and generosity of leave and time off arrangements for looking after children / family is also a reason why the public sector is stuffed full to bursting with women. Many can get equal pay and positive discrimination even though they've taken time out through their working lives. Win-win.

L fairfax said...

It is not a gender pay gap it is a mothers pay gap. Different problem and therefore different solution

Timbo614 said...

@BQ: "For all the grief involved a full time manager might be working 50 hours a week for just £5,000pa after tax and expenses."
Typo alert 50K surely. Otherwise an accurate post.

CityUnslicker said...

No Timbo, that was not a typo - however, maybe shows that a little time has passed since the historical point of the article.

I am with you all, I have worked in large corporations all my life, there just is not ANY discrimination.

The entirety of any gender pay gap is always explained by the penalties of being a Mum and not asking for pay / not moving jobs as much - which really is an Oestrogen/Testosterone thing?...perhaps not because...

I note things are changing , women are having less kids and are more often in the main breadwinner role, when they are they act more like men in asking for payrises and moving jobs - so more of a payoff mindset than a chemical difference after all.

It is all from the same 'progressive' viewpoint seeking equality of outcome rather than equality of opportunity...its a very pernicious view and responsible for many of the wrong policy choices and focuses of all governments in the last 15 years.

Anonymous said...

Given that women prefer a man who earns more than they do, all these campaigns have the effect of depressing fertility. How many women will marry, have babies with, and stay with a man earning less than they do? Maybe if he's an artist or musician ... not so much with a carpet fitter.

Whether depressing fertility is a bug or a feature of "feminism" I know not, though I suspect the latter. It's as if raising children isn't a job and an important one.

James Higham said...

Most interesting account, Bill.

E-K said...

As though I see any of my money anyway. It all goes to my woman and the boys at uni. All the sisterhood will do is deprive themselves of choices through having poorer partners. There is no gender gap where work and length of service are equal. In fact there is inequality against men.

Bill Quango MP said...

From memory, some fourteen years ago, Mrs Q was a manager at Laura Ashley.
She had our child and returned. From memory, she was earning £18-20,000. But after childcare costs and travel, was left with little more than £100 a week disposable income. So for a forty hour week, was only a few pounds better off at work than staying at home.
Which is what eventually happened.
With two young children, it’s impossible except at very high salaries.

* retail salaries haven’t moved much. A cafe manager in London £22,000. Supervisor £ 10700

Nick Drew said...

If to BQ's account we add the fact that many firms fall over themselves to promote females preferentially, the situation is even less what is often claimed.

I'm not given to whingeing (as I trust C@W regulars can attest) and offer these two first-hand anecdotes purely as evidence & not in any spirit of resentment

(a) I was once in a department where the top job was due to fall vacant in about a year's time when the head retired. I was in line, but knew the board favoured a female colleague (who was and remains a good personal friend, BTW). I was head-and-shoulders the more experienced, and there were professional exams involved, which we both passed at the same time, and I scored higher than her. Seeing the difficulties their plan would run into (they'd hoped she would get the better exam result) the board immediately created a whole new department for her to head up, and promoted her on the spot - naturally, with pay-rise to match. A year on, I duly got the job that was originally in contention, and was thus promoted 12 months later than her.

(b) In another company, a divisional director resigned out of the blue. His no.2, a woman, was absolutely outstanding (and another long-time friend of mine) but declined the role, not wanting the additional responsibilities. I was the only other person even vaguely qualified, and was asked to take the job almost as a favour to the firm (it involved me in an arduous commute). I took it, and on examining my new budget discovered herself was being paid more than me. I therefore requested a rise, at least to the same level of salary as my own no.2 - and was told to get back in my box.

As I say, no bitterness on my part: no skin off my nose in either case, and I've done just fine thankyou. But anti-women discrimination? Do me a favour!

Al said...

The discrimination is in defaulting jobs to full time. If the starting point was part time roles. Only taking back to full time role if really necessary then a lot of this disparity would gradually go away. Most of the professional women I know in part time roles achieve as much in a week as their full time counterparts.
I have also had two part time line managers that worked really well (3 days per week each).

There are definitely roles that can only be done full time but I suspect its a fraction of the actual number of full time roles out there.

Anonymous said...

"But anti-women discrimination? Do me a favour!"

And yet the cries of "discrimination!" "sexism!" grow louder and shriller, not (as you might expect) diminishing.

I wonder why that might be?

Electro-Kevin said...

It's a mystery as to why men are employed at all when women work as well (if not better) and do so for a lower hourly rate.

K said...

Over the last 10 years our account managers at various services have gone from maybe 80/20 m/f to 50/50.

However the problem with the female managers is they're never available. They're out of the office by 4pm and forever on holiday. I find myself constantly bypassing them and going direct to contacts deeper on the company. This must surely bring down their numbers and effect their salaries too.

I don't understand why it's done this way. If your female staff want to only work 8 hours a day, 4 days a week then don't make your customers have to deal with it too. Move the part time workers off the front line and make our point of contact some young guy who's happy to work 9-5.

Anonymous said...

Our females want all the preferential shifts, are rarely seen on nights and have a high rate of sickness, early retirement through sickness and a disproportionate amount of restricted duty.

They complain that childcare means that they should be treated differently.

The net effect is that singletons and traditional families are supporting dual income families.

It's a piss take.

dearieme said...

andrew said...

I think Al identified the core issue and BQ may be right but not completely:

If you identify the jobs where extra experience gives that employee persistent extra value over a long period, those are the jobs where a gender gap will persist.

Consider a contract programmer. After 5 years or so (ymmv - pick your own threshold) an extra years experience will not really add much to your abilities and therefore not much to your pay.
So I think the gender gap in jobs like this will be 0-small.

Consider a journalist. It may be that after 5 years or so (again ymmv) they will not really be that much better.
BUT one of the things that really determines what a journalist (politician/banker/salesman etc etc) is seen to be worth is the contact book / network and the opinion of his/her wider peers.
Not being in existence for 5-10 years will indeed seriously damage that compared to a man/woman who was 'there'

So I think there will be a persistent gender pay gap in those areas of work and also as these are jobs that journalists work in and near you will carry on hearing about it.

This will carry on until men take as much maternity leave as women.

This also applies in a gender-neutral manner in other areas.
Junior doctors used to work ~100 hours pw for a few years.
Compare that to the modern junior working ~45 hours pw or so.
After a few years the depth of experience means that young doctors may be less likely to kill you whilst in training, but due to a lack of experience may be more likely to make an error later on.

The IT Contractor said...

I contracted at a large Swiss investment bank recently. I was there while the annual promotions took place. The day was headline news on the intranet, with lists of those promoted being distributed by email so that much back slapping and overdone congratulations could be directed to the people with the pay rise. Note that, as a contractor, I am neutral on this point - one of the great joys of contracting is not to have to make up annual performance targets for review by a HR drone at the end of the year. Do work, deliver system, get paid, go and do something else.

On my team, in IT, were four women and three men (and me - covering a woman's maternity leave). All four women were promoted, plus the woman who had been on maternity leave for, ooh I think about nine months by this point. Don't get me wrong - one, at push two, of those women deserved to be promoted on merit. The others didn't. The manager of the team was a woman. Same with the blokes - one, maybe two, had earned an uplift, in my eyes.

The three blokes did their "losing an Oscar" smiles, but it was pretty obvious to everyone that the women had all been promoted as part of another agenda. The next week, a firm-wide email was sent out by the CEO, stating that the firm had a huge gender pay gap and was already making steps to sort it out; clearly the men and women who hired people and set pay at the firm were all sexist bastards. Oh and that rank was insignificant at the firm; it didn't matter what your title was - what was valued was your contribution. Which is easy to say when your rank is CEO and another £25k-£50k a year wouldn't make a difference to your life.

Of the three blokes on the team, two are looking to jump ship, with other men who were similarly looked over in order to please the feminist lobby also looking to move on. It's not going to end well for the firms who've fallen for the gender pay gap lie.

It's worth looking up the Jordan Peterson vs Cathy Newman C4 News debate which contains much discussion of the gender pay gap.

Charlie said...

E-K: "It's a mystery as to why men are employed at all when women work as well (if not better) and do so for a lower hourly rate."

I think this is the best proof that the gender pay gap doesn't exist. Of course it would be obvious to all good capitalists to hire 100% women for exactly this reason. But it's bollocks, so we men are still able to ply our trade in the labour market.

There are a ton of other reasons (besides motherhood) that women on average earn less (note I said earn, not get paid) than men.

- They disproportionately choose careers in lower-paid sectors, like retail.

- They are, on average, much less comfortable than men with asking for a pay rise.

- They are, on average, much less inclined and equipped to fight the tough fight required to get to the top of large corporations.

Charlie said...

Timbo - it's some time ago, but my mum, a single parent, looked at going back to work full time when me and my brother were both at school. She did the sums and found out that she would actually be less than £20 a week better off working full time than working part time and claiming Family Credit - a marginal pay rate of less than a quid an hour. So she did what any of us would do, and carried on working part time.

Given that we've had a lot more government largesse in the last twenty years, I can't see how that equation would have changed - if anything, I bet mothers are actually worse off working full time nowadays. I wouldn't know because Mrs Charlie and I are both freelancers and therefore entitled to the square root of fuck all now that she is looking after our six month old full time.

Anonymous said...

"They are, on average, much less comfortable than men with asking for a pay rise."

Now here's a thing.

My wife tells me to step on it when I'm not earning enough. She has, in the past, told me to challenge my boss. Which her and children to support it is essential.

I've never done so with her but when I have suggested she might ask her boss for a rise she bottles it - completely.

I'm sure I'd be perfectly happy as a postman living on my own.

Anonymous said...

Charlie - it's amazing how "the magic of the market" can apparently sort out all kinds of things, but it can't sort this. You'd think buy now hungry capitalists would have hired all those lower-paid women and they'd be undercutting the sexist dinosaur companies, wouldn't you?

Unless, I suppose, there is another explanation - that women are (on average) different in their life-strategies, less pushy for promotion/pay-rises (plenty of men like that too), less interested in 60 hour weeks, less interested in the extreme nastiness that can arise as the prizes get bigger (very few female armed robbers, too), more vested in the idea that it's the man's primary role to put bread on the table*.

* I know a couple of local cases where for men a bankruptcy or lost job meant a lost family, too. Anyone ever heard of a man leaving a woman because she's been made redundant?

Anonymous said...