Stop denying it: the gender pay gap is real

You might be finding it particularly hard to drag yourself out of bed to go to work these days. Not because it is cold, or raining, or dark, but because even when you battle the elements to drag yourself to work these winter mornings, you still aren’t getting paid for it — if you are a woman, that is. Since November 11th, Irish women have been working for free. You might be surprised but actually, it’s something we do every year. That’s because we have a gender pay gap in Ireland of 13.9%. If you shave 13.9% off the end of the year, you land on November 11th. So effectively, from now until the end of the year, women in Ireland are working for free. 

This might not be your experience. You might say that you have had more opportunities in your life because you are a woman, and that you make more money than any men in your life. You might claim that there is no gender pay gap, that it is a myth. But it is not a myth. The data proves you wrong.

According to the European Institute for Gender Equality 2019 Index, women's mean monthly earnings are €2,808 in Ireland, compared to €3,423 for men. The gender pay gap is a fact and your individual experience does not discount the facts. The opportunities afforded to women in the workplace are not equal to the ones afforded to men, and that is true whether you believe it or not. 

If measures are not taken to address the gender pay gap, it will take 100 years to close it, according to The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2017. 

Despite all of the evidence, many people refuse to let facts get in the way of a good conspiracy theory. A poll from Time this year found that nearly half (46 per cent) of American men and 30 per cent of American women think that the gender pay gap “is made up to serve a political purpose” as opposed to being a “legitimate issue”. The same poll, which surveyed over 8,000 people, found that a quarter of those aged between 18 to 34 said the media’s coverage of the gender pay gap was “fake news”. 

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It is very hard to solve a problem if people deny that there is a problem there in the first place — look at what climate change deniers managed to achieve for several decades. However, there is some progress and those deniers are being left where they belong in the 1950s. Gender pay gay reporting legislation is coming to Ireland, and once enacted will legally require public and private companies based here to reveal their gender pay gaps. The legislation is part of a wider trend in Europe with other countries such as Britain, France and Germany introducing similar laws. Reporting works. Recent research from the Harvard Business Review found pay gaps shrink when legislation requires companies to disclose gender pay disparities, and more women are hired and promoted to senior roles.

Of course, it is unfortunate that we have to embarrass companies into action but if that is what it takes to drag them into equality, it has to be done. And this legislation alone won’t fix the pay gap. But it is a start. The gender pay gap deniers out there can keep spinning their conspiracy theories, but the world is moving on without them. And I, for one, look forward to waking on a dreary November morning and not having to hear news reports about why Irish women are effectively working for free for the rest of the year. It will happen. The pay gap will be a relic of the past, a horror story we tell the next generation who will find it so bizarre they won’t believe us. A whole new type of denier, and a much more welcome one, because such inequality will be so alien to them, they simply will be unable to imagine it.

Photo: Unsplash 

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