I’m intrigued as to just what Harriet Harman thinks she’s up to with her new plans on equal pay in the workplace.
I read this morning about her move to force employers to publish details of their male/female salary discrepancies, and the proposed positive discrimination policies to allow female and ethnic minority candidates to be recruited over equally-qualified white males.
And I was a bit stumped, to say the least.
Now obviously I haven’t had a chance to read up much on the finer details of all this, but I’ve seen enough to suspect that it’s a can of worms on an epic scale – something of a wheelie-bin full of worms really.
Is it just me, or has she missed the point entirely? Firstly, from what I’ve been reading so far, Ms Harman is basing all this on the fact that (outrageously, she would say) part-time women receive an average 40% less pay than their full-time male counterparts. She asks if we think that’s because “…they are 40% less intelligent, less committed, less hard-working, less qualified?”.
At the risk of seeming obtuse, I’d suggest that the discrepancy has more to do with the fact that the part time women work fewer hours…?
Now I have no problem with anybody getting ants in their pants from finding out that they’re paid less than a colleague who does the same job. This is something I’ve experienced twice in my career, and no matter which way you look at it, it’s not big, not clever and most definitely not fair.
However, if you really want to look deep into this, shouldn’t it be important to compare apples with apples, instead of with oranges or a big wheelie-bin full of worms? Show me the research that illustrates that women are paid less than men for the same job on the same working pattern and at the same level – then I’ll accept that we have a problem with discrimination over pay.
As a woman, it’s the bigger picture that concerns me. Proposing to address the equal pay question by introducing positive discrimination, sounds to me like dressing a wound with a dirty bandage – sure you might stop the bleeding just now, but you’re going to end up with a heck of a nasty infection after a while.
I’m talking about those being discriminated against, the poor old white male. More and more these days, I’m meeting guys who are quite open in stating their opinion that the white male is the most discriminated against party in the UK – in the words of one particular charmer (who shall remain nameless), “the pendulum is swinging too far the other way.”
Of course, having been on the receiving end of true sexual discrimination in the past myself, my sympathies are limited to say the least. As I see it, the white male has had it all his own way for quite a while, and it’s time to start sharing now. However, I also believe that increasing the opportunities for one party, shouldn’t have to be at the expense of another, and if positive discrimination for females is introduced, then we’re going to end up with a lot of unpleasant chips on a lot of male shoulders – and quite understandably so.
As I see it, the concept of equal pay for equal work is one of simple mathematics – right and wrong, regardless of the gender or ethnicity of anybody involved. Equality of opportunity however, is far more of a sticky wicket – and that’s where we’re getting ourselves into a pickle.
Whether or not part-time women get paid the same as full-time men is an enormous red herring – the real question is why there are so many part-time women that the statistics are showing a massive pay gap between the genders.
I’m going to leave it there – it’s not going to take a rocket scientist to figure out where I’m going next, however if you read my last post Baby Talk, you’ll know what I’m on about…