Wednesday, 9 September 2009

"Shocking" gender pay gap found in UK finance

Thus screamed the headlines from a report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission in the UK. In their report, they made fantastic allegations – Women earn 80% less performance pay than men in the financial services industry in the UK. There was also a 30% gap in basic pay between women and men. Every newspaper in the UK carried this story of how women are discriminated against.

This is precisely the sort of research and conclusions that we can do without. I have some experience of this sector and this country to know that this large a discrimination does not exist. So I read deeper. What has this worthy Commission done ? They’ve simply added up the salaries of women they surveyed and compared with the men they surveyed. And found this difference. So what does this say ? It does not say discrimination. It just says women are doing less senior jobs than the men. Or a greater proportion of women are doing lesser paying jobs than men. The right comparison , in case there was gender discrimination, is if a man and a woman were doing the same job and were being paid different. That is unlikely in any significant scale – its against the law anyway.

But we live in the day and age of instant soundbytes. Message in 140 characters or less. Somehow there’s an air of authenticity to surveys and reports. And therefore you can get away with headlines such as “Shocking gender pay gap”.

Do women face a non level playing field ? Sure. Is there a glass ceiling ? Absolutely. Do companies have friendly policies that are conducive to balancing work and home? No. Do women drop out of work because of having home responsibilities ? Certainly. Are the senior levels in companies filled with testosterone ? Completely. Is there a machismo culture ? For sure. But is there a “shocking gender pay gap” ? NO.

Shame on you – Equality and Human Rights Commission. By such sensationalism, you actually harm the cause of women. By not addressing the real issues they face.


Anonymous said...

That was an interesting read. There are 101 issues and a few sprout up with crap like this, just to register their presence. And media does their part to blow the news out of proportion!

A journey called Life said...

i guess news these days has to be taken with a pinch of salt.. there is this element of 'breaking news' and 'sensationalism'in almost all areas..with less time and lesser attention spans, the news as is gets lapped up..
imagine the furore this particular piece of news would have caused?

raghavendra kotla said...

I heard statistics is bikini science. They reveal what is interesting and conceal what is vital. Now I think surveys are also similar. They just give some interesting (???) statements, but fail to follow the proper rules of sample selection/comparison and disclosures to the readers.

Srivats said...

may be its the media thats to be blammed for, and yes you are right, there are dozens of problem women face at work - I see it right in front of my eyes and regarding lesser pay it exists in india I have seen it myself and still seeing, someone has to take pain to prove me otherwise. But as you say it may not exists in UK, but this is all just a gimmick :P

Adesh Sidhu said...

Unfortunately, job of media is to sell news and not report news. They will do anything to sell. You may like it or may not like it but you will not ignore it.

Anonymous said...

The media has tasted blood with sensational/scandalous "news". Is there any hope, it might go back to the regular news reporting as opposed to news making again??

Preeti Shenoy said...

Well analysed and well said. I must give full marks to BBC radio though which mentioned exactly what you have really well elaborated in this post.
There was a discussion on this as well. (you must be tired of hearing me talk about my BBC radio :) )

Ramesh said...

@Savitha - Yes sometimes they do blow things out of proportion

@AJCL - It did cause a furore. The trend towards sensationalising everything is a big issue with a free press.

@Kotla - Trust the dashing Kotla to come up with a mataphor like that !

@Adesh - Yes you can't ignore it, but it doesn't make it "right".

@Srivats - The issue of lesser pay in India. Its now pretty rare in decent companies I think. It of course exisits massively in the unorganised sector - construction labour and the like.

Ramesh said...

@thoughtful train - No chance. The media is firecely competitive and if they don't 'sell" they die. Actually blaming media for sensationalism isn't right - after all as consumers, we choose to see only what is sensational !

@Preeti - Thanks. I think I should apply for a job with the BBC !! I am a diehard BBC Radio fan as you too. In my view, its the best media organisation in the world by a mile.

Anonymous said...

You are right Ramesh. As consumers, a lot of people tune into the rumour mongering! But I would rather roast in the desert than be another consumer of this madness!!

This is why I have stopped following the news on TV, your page is my business section!! ;-)

Sandhya Sriram said...

Completely agree with you. the article is totally rubbish. this is like the research stuff which times of india publishes on the international section like "Kids who dont eat spinach have longer life expetency based on research conducted on 10 mice in dusseldorf"

But i am sure it would make some men happier to wish if it were that way :-)


Ramesh said...

@sandhya - thanks for visiting and your comment. LOL on the spinach research.

No no; men are are all such nice and wonderful and kind creatures that such a thought is incapable of them !!

Ravi Rajagopalan said...

The real test of discrimination is whether women who drop out of the work force to raise a family can get back to it on terms that recognise their role as primary care givers for children. Sometimes companies and the men who run them think they were magicked into existence without a woman playing any part in their birth, upbringing and care. The test that they apply to such women is the test they would employ to judge any two candidates. To my mind, this is unfair. Instead of addressing issues like this, Trevor Philips and his band of idiots have consistently addressed the wrong sort of issue. I agree with you about the way this study was done and publicised - it does a lot of harm. Instead, if they had spent this effort to work with five big corporations in the UK, to help their managers devise a program to create roles where a woman can come to work for a few hours and go home to be with the children, even as a test case, they would have rendered a positive service. Mothers seeking to work are not stupid - they know they cannot earn the same pay as someone who works more hours or is able to get on a plane at short notice and bugger off to somewhere on a business trip. This is the black and white issue the EHRC should focus on.

Ramesh said...

@Dada - Brilliant point ; I completely agree. Thinking of doing a post on women on precisely this theme.

BrownPhantom said...

Hi, Came through Preeti's blog.
The report is not that shocking if you note that the gap in financial sector is on Variable Pay. The fixed income need not vary that much. Given the fact that men are much more risk taking and last couple of years have rewarded risk-takers extremely well in finance sector, this news shouldn't be so surprising or indicative of gender-discrimination.
You would see that men in finance sector must have earned the same amount of extra bonus as compared to men in retail sectors as well.
Of course, that risky behaviour has now put us in a soup, which is an altogether different matter :).

BrownPhantom said...

Just noticed that fixed salary gap is also nearly 30-40% .This could perhaps be explained on similiar lines. That those who took more risks brought in more money and were rewarded with promotions earlier.

But I don't deny that gender discrimination exists at workplace. Just that it is not so huge as the report wants us to be inferred.

By the way, liked your blog very much. Told the same to Preeti too. Didn't know that such interesting posts and observations could be made out of corporate life :)

Ramesh said...

@BrownPhantom - Thanks for visiting and your very kind words.

Even the fixed salary gap is probably just due to the different levels men may be occupying rather than women. And there's the risk taking too and as you say its landed us in a royal mess.

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