International Women’s Day: actions not words

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Earlier this week, people around the world celebrated International Women’s Day. But as organizations proudly showcased their female role models, critics pointed to the ongoing challenge of closing the gender pay gap – a chasm that may have widened during the pandemic.

Newsletter of March 11, 2022

This year, on International Women’s Day (IWD), many organizations that have tweeted their support for gender equality by showcasing positive female role models have been hit with a Twitterbot who revealed their gender pay gap. The bot automatically retweeted the IWD post, adding a statistic comparing the organization’s typical hourly wage for women with that of men.

In the UK, information on the gender pay gap is available for all organizations with more than 250 employees, following the government’s decision gender pay gap reporting requirement. This data reveals the stark reality that women are paid less than men in the overwhelming majority of large organizations. In April 2021, women working full time earned 7.9% less than men. The overall pay gap is wider than this because a higher proportion of women working part-time tend to have lower hourly wages than full-time workers.

This IWD, reported information on the gender pay gap has been used effectively to name and blame organizations. But research shows that publicizing the level of disparity can also help reduce the gender pay gap itself. A recent analysis used the fact that reporting is required for firms above a certain size to compare changes over time in men’s and women’s wages for large (affected) and small (unaffected) firms. affected).

In Denmarkrequiring organizations to report their information on the gender pay gap has led to a narrowing of the gap, largely achieved through reduced pay increases for men. UKmandatory reporting and publication has increased the likelihood of women in high-paying jobs (evidence showing that companies are adopting more female-friendly recruitment strategies) and has closed the gender pay gap by reducing the real hourly wage of men.

But the pace of change is slow and new measures need to be taken, especially to tackle the unequal effects of having children on men and women. Economic research finds clear evidence that women’s earnings are significantly and permanently reduced after becoming parents, while the same is not true for men. Women take on an unequal burden of caring responsibilities, which often leads them to move into part-time work (or quit work altogether). It also means that women are more likely to refrain from applying for a promotion and often choose jobs closer to home.

Coming out of the pandemic, an increase in working from home could make it easier for people to combine work and care. But at the height of the crisis, many women had to bear the brunt of childcare and working from home, which meant juggling two jobs (formal work and informal care). And even some have suggested that the pandemic may lead to an erosion of gender norms in the allocation of long-term child care.

There is certainly a demand for more flexible working. Between January 19 and January 30, 2022 – after the work from home guidelines ended – 36% of working adults said they had worked from home at least once in the past seven days. But it’s important that moms and dads take advantage of work-from-home opportunities to combine work and care. It’s vital that flexible working isn’t stereotyped as the ‘mom track’, as warned Catherine Mannmember of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee.

When it comes to men and women, gender stereotypes are extremely important in understanding many behavioral differences, including the division of child custody. Worryingly, evidence from France and the United States shows that sexist attitudes have declined during the pandemic.

In Francemen and women with young children became more likely to believe that a woman’s job is to care for the family. In the USAtats, there was increased support for fathers as discipliners and mothers as planners for their children. There were also significant increases in agreement with the propositions that mothers are happier at home, should not work when they have young children, and should generally stay home.

Employers have an important role to play in helping to overcome these stereotypes, for example by promoting flexible working for both men and women and encouraging the use of shared parental leave by fathers. Hopefully those same employers will celebrate the upcoming IWD not just with images of female role models, but with positive stories of real change.

Author: Sarah Smith
Photo by champc on iStock

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