Being paid less than a colleague for no other reason than your gender is illegal in the UK, but it can be really hard to know how to get started tackling it. Here are some quick tips from us on dealing with the gender pay gap!
Do your research
The most straightforward way to find out if you are being paid less than your colleagues is to ask them. Of course, you might be uncomfortable asking, and they might be uncomfortable answering. It can help to make clear that you are worried about being paid fairly, and aren’t just trying to be nosey.
There are other ways to get an idea of what you should expect to be paid – you can use an online salary checker, which gives average salaries in different locations for different roles, or look for job ads from your employer to see what they’re offering for similar roles. You may find your skills are worth more than you realised, quite apart from an issue of gender discrimination.
Some industries even have shared spreadsheets which anyone can add to, where employees can anonymously input their salary and location so as to help inform other about what the fair rate is. You may wish to check with your colleagues to see if they have heard of one of these, or if you’re feeling particularly bold, consider starting your own – knowledge is power!
If you company has more than 250 employees, you can look up them up on the Government’s pay gap website. While as discussed in the previous blog, the pay gap is not the same as equal pay, it can give you a sense of how great the gender divide is in your company
You can also ask you employer. ACAS advises that your employer won’t be able to share personal details of other employees because of GDPR, but you can ask for general information, such as how much people of the opposite sex are earning for doing the same or similar work to you.
Informal conversations can be a good way to start
Raising the issue informally with your employer, allows you to clarify with them if there is a legitimate reason for you being paid less – such as experience or length of time with the company. There’s lots of advice on the internet on how to approach these conversations (Time and The Cut have some super helpful articles), with a common point being that it’s good to emphasise how fair pay is good for both you and the company.
Find who can support you
There will likely be organisations who can offer you support and advice. This might be your Trade Union, or an independent organisation like ACAS or (in Scotland) Close the Gap. If you find you have a case, you’ll need a lot of support and legal help.
It’s probably also worth reaching out to other colleagues who may be in a similar situation to see if you can work together. You can also talk to your HR department if you feel comfortable doing so and raise your concerns with them.
If all else fails, look for another job
Unfortunately, the system isn’t fair – it’s not set up to make it easy for you to check if you are getting fairly paid, and it’s even harder to force your employer to change. It’s easy to make it sound like it’s women’s fault for not negotiating harder, or being more aware of our rights, but ultimately if you’re not being properly valued by your employer that’s their fault and definitely not yours.
As Sallie Krawcheck, CEO of Ellevest, put it “I hate to say it. But sometimes you have to leave… If it was that easy, ‘Ask for the raise like this. Do it like this,’ we would’ve done it.”
“In 2019, on average women were paid 83p for every £1 men were paid.” This opening line from a House of Commons blog post on the gender pay gap in the UK is typical of how we tend to talk about the pay gap. It’s helpful in that it shows how great the discrepancy is, but it makes it sound like a problem of employers deliberately not paying women as much as men and, unfortunately, it isn’t as simple as that.
What the Pay Gap isn’t
The pay gap is not the same as equal pay. Equal pay is the issue of women getting paid less for doing the same work as men. It’s been illegal for 50 years now, but it still happens, with one high profile recent example being the BBC having to increase the pay of over 700 women, as they were being underpaid compared with their male colleagues.
So, what’s the gender pay gap?
The pay gap is the difference between the average pay of men and women per hour, and you can look at pay gaps on a nationwide, regional, sector, or individual business level. It’s not illegal to have a pay gap and it doesn’t take into account seniority, type of work or experience.
So is it bad to have a pay gap?
The pay gap isn’t just caused by discrimination in a super straightforward way. For example, airlines tend to have quite large pay gaps. That’s likely because the vast majority of pilots are male, while most cabin crew are women, and pilots are make much more than women. That’s not to say that the patriarchy isn’t at the route of all this – the reason why there’s more women in service roles, and less in well-paid professions is based in centuries of discimination, but it’s not as simple an employer choosing to pay a women less for the same work.
What causes the gender pay gap?
It’s not even as simple as what jobs women decide or feel they should take. Even in many professions which women dominate, there is still often a pay gap. For example, most school teachers are women, but male teachers are disproportionately likely to become head teachers. This might not be as simple as women being passed over for a higher paid job. It might be that a workplace offers little support for women returning to work after maternity leave, or that they are more likely to extra work that is less valued by the institution. For example, female academics tend to take on more pastoral and administrative responsibilities than their male colleagues, giving them less time to devote to their research, making them less likely to advance as quickly in their career.
One final cause is that women do a lot more unpaid work than men do – work looking after their children, cooking cleaning and other household labour. While the total amount of paid and unpaid work done by men and women is broadly similar (about 50 hours per week), women still do average 13 more hours of unpaid work per week. Because women do so much more work that isn’t for their job, as well as the other barriers mentioned above, we’re less likely to advance as quickly in our careers.
But maybe women just want to do less well paid jobs?
Maybe. But it seems quite likely that we treat work that’s done mainly by women as just less valuable than that done by men. For example Midlothian council in 2009 was shown to pay teaching assistants (mainly women) working with children with special needs half of what they paid to road workers (overwhelmingly men). Both are clearly demanding and necessary jobs, but is helping support children learn really half as worthwhile and skilled as helping make roads?
We tend to give less financial value to roles dominated by women. A classic example of this is computer programming. Being a computer programmer could be described as a traditional female job, in the sense that many of the early computer programmers were women. While today at American universities only around 17% of computer programme majors are women, in 1980 it was double that. Back then computer, being a computer programmer was seen as a quite mundane job and was low-paid. However, as the social prestige and earnings of programmers have risen, the number of women going into it has declined.
While the core skills of being a programmer haven’t really changed, it is now often seen as an almost inherently male job. These expectations of who should be going into certain professions influence women’s choices in subtle ways, as well as the choices of their employers, teachers and advisors. These build up over years to produce the huge disparities both in who we pay more and what work we see as truly valuable.
Is it just between men and women?
No – while most of our discussion about the pay gap focuses on gender, it’s not as simple as that. There’s a pay gap between gay men and straight men for example (although gay men on average still earn more than women). A lesbian couple can be thought of as being hit twice by the pay gap, because as a financial unit it is likely that two women will be earning less than a man and a woman. There is also a significant racial pay gap in the UK.
The pay gap isn’t a single issue – it’s a symptom of far wider issues of how marginalised peoples interact with the economy. The economy is made to work best for white, straight, able-bodied, middle-class men. It’s going to take an awful lot of work to overcome that.
Learn more about the Pay Gap in the UK here
Setting up for maths class is usually a easy. You are comfortable with the content, you know your students so well you can guess where upset might come from. Everyone including yourself, is comfortable, happy and engaged. But what about puberty, menstrual health and sexual health? This can be a completely different environment. Whether you are a class teacher or a head of department training staff, we want to guide you through some tips when delivering content which you are not used to.
This is the important stuff
Yes, puberty can be an awkward topic to approach. But, it is important to remember that understanding topics like puberty and growing up are some of the most important topics young people will learn during school. Educators have the chance to ensure that young people are given the right information and the confidence to fully understand their bodies and the bodies of others. This will prevent anxiety, encourage equality and empathy and ensure they feel confident to tackle what comes their way. For many, school will be the first and possibly only time when they are able to discuss and ask questions. It is important to recognise the influence you hold. This is not a pressure, but a fact to feel motivated to make a positive impression on the lives of your students.
Don’t ban laughing and fun
Creating an environment where giggling and fun are not banned is really important. By stopping students laughing or smiling, we are creating a very false, intense and uncomfortable environment. The consequence? They are less likely to engage, open up or take in information. It is important to ensure the classroom remains a clam space for everyone to learn and listen. But it is also important to accept that laughter is inevitable. By not punishing laughter students can recognise that these topics are stigmatised. By doing this, we not only can create a more natural and relaxed environment but can encourage students to question why puberty is seen as so embarrassing. This can help the class pick apart the misconceptions, inequalities and stigma which surrounds these topics and learn to challenge it.
Puberty education is not the same as many other topics. It is a very socialised topic and so it is always a great idea to ensure that it is taught using interactive activities. Using role play or movement exercises will be more memorable and will encourage students feel engaged to take part.
Sign up to our mailing list or learn more about our own puberty education programme on our website!
In our previous post we talked about the Pain Gap – the way pain is treated and understood differently between men and women. Women’s pain is often dismissed or downplayed by medical professionals, with dangerous consequences for women. It’s a super important topic, but it’s also a massive bummer. So today we wanted to give you five different ideas for how to fight that pain gap.
1. Be your own advocate
As women, we are socialised to be less willing to challenge authority and question their opinion. That’s a tricky behaviour to unlearn but it’s important to remember that even if you’re not a medical expert, you are an expert on your own body. It’s okay to be pushy to get the right treatment for you or make sure your concerns or experience is listened to.
A good place to start can be knowing the often multiple ways the game can be stacked against you. Fat women (and men) are frequently told that their illnesses or issues are all because of their weight, regardless of how healthy they are otherwise. Black women are five times more likely than white women to die in childbirth in the UK, at least in part because they are less likely to be listened to by their doctor. It obviously shouldn’t be your burden to fight for systemic change, but knowing the ways you might get dismissed can help you to navigate your care more effectively and have confidence that it’s not a problem with you – it’s a problem with the system, and you deserve to be heard.
2. Hack their biases
Biases exist, and if you can’t stop them happening, you might as well see if you can get them to work for you. One study found that doctors seem to respond better to the ways men typically describe pain. Women tend to talk more about the context of their pain, for example how it is impacting their ability to socialise or the way they look after their children. Men tend to use more clinical terms and physical descriptions and emphasise how it’s impacting their work, so if you feel like you’re not getting through, as frustrating as it may seem, maybe try changing the language you’re using to get your message across.
Another study found that doctors take the pain of women they find attractive less seriously than women they find unattractive. Personally, I would have thought that me talking at length about the weird pus coming from my eye would make me pretty unattractive regardless of my other features, but hey ho, I guess everyone’s got their kink. I’m not sure there’s much in terms of practical steps to take from this one, but maybe if you feel you aren’t being listened to by your doctor, take the opportunity to lean across the desk and say “Look, I know I’m pretty stunning, but seriously I’m in a lot of pain and need a solution.”
3. If you need to, change your GP
Much like with boyfriends (or significant others generally), there’s no point sticking with a GP who isn’t giving you what you need. Dump. Their. Ass. Don’t be afraid to play the field, until you find one who’s right for you. Of course, having a good GP doesn’t mean one who’s a total pushover – but you deserve to feel like your’re really being listened to and that you can tell them your concerns and ask questions.
4. Get the word out
The more people know about the pain gap, the more of us who can push for fair treatment, and there’s so many ways you can spread the word. Share one of our instagram posts about the pain gap! Send a friend a friend a link to one of our blogs, or one of these great articles from the BBC, Guardian, Vox or Marie Claire! Send an email to your MP or MSP telling them how mad you are about this and asking what they are doing about it! Write to your local medical school and ask how they are trying to train the next generation of nurses and doctors to be less susceptible to these biases than the last!
It’s also important to think about your own privilege and whether there are stories you could be helping share of women who are less likely to listened to, because of their race, body-shape, sexuality or any other reason.
5. Learn about your body and talk about your body
The education we get about our bodies in school is super limited, but there are so many great resources now, whether books, podcasts, influencers or YouTubers. Find ones that work for you! Our friends can also be a fantastic resource and it can be really helpful to normalise talking openly and honestly about your body with your friends. Sharing your experiences, your worries, as well as what you love and cherish about your body can be a massive help in gaining confidence in your own body and what a healthy body looks and feels like. Knowledge is power.
In recent weeks, the usual steady background noise of body-shaming and fatphobia has seen an uptick. A higher mortality of Covid-19 among people deemed obese led to a range of Government proposals, including calories to be displayed on restaurant menus and a public campaign to encourage people to lose weight. Soon after, a leading figure in the National Obesity Forum also suggested that children be regularly weighed at school after lockdown, despite concerns that this would be incredibly anxiety inducing for many children. These are all proposals presented as having our best interests at heart, but they embody a far darker part of our society.
The individual parts of these proposals can be picked apart. For examples, calories calculated by restaurants are often inaccurate but, even if they were right, calorie counting has long been discredited as an effective way to lose weight or improve how healthy your diet is. Unsurprisingly, your body is more complicated than a calorie-in, calorie-out machine.
But what’s more concerning is not that these proposals won’t help people – it’s that they’ll be actively damaging. Adding to a culture of fat shaming is not likely to make people thinner – somewhere around 95 to 98% of all diets fail. Instead, it just makes people hate their bodies more.
A lot of people already have a very negative image of their own body: nearly a third of teenagers are ashamed of their bodies, and one in eight adults in the UK say they have experienced suicidal thoughts because of their negative body image. And this isn’t just an issue which affects women – the rate of boys hospitalised for eating disorders is actually increasing faster than among girls.
Part of the cause in this increasing rise is to do with social media presenting us constantly with so many seemingly perfect bodies, but it’s also to do with a far wider societal disgust at fatness. How often have you seen a fat person in a film or TV show portrayed as sexy? It’s probably nowhere near as often as the amount of times fat people are shown as disgusting, gluttonous or lacking in self-control. (In contrast, the rise of super humanly ripped heroes in blockbuster films has also been linked to worsening body image among men).
As a society we are obsessed with weight loss. It only took till July for the Daily Mail, to run an article on a diet that “will help shed your quarantine pounds” – even living through a global pandemic is no longer an acceptable excuse for weight gain. When we’re constantly bombarded with all this messaging about how if we were only willing to put in a little work to change we could have the body of our dreams, it’s no wonder that so many of us are ashamed of our less than perfect bodies.
None of this is to say that we couldn’t be healthier as a society, but focussing on obesity probably isn’t a very helpful place to start. For one thing weight or BMI is a really bad metric to predict if someone is actually healthy.
We could focus on making healthy food more affordable on accessible, or change PE classes in schools so that they’re a place where kids actually have a fun time, rather than, as many do, feeling like this is not a space where they feel safe.
But we also need to normalise different bodies. You can start this for yourself by diversifying the people you follow on Instagram! There’s some incredible activists working on body positivity and fat activism, including ones based in Scotland like Danni Gordon and Scottee – so go give them a follow!
There’s also great advice out there on how to develop a healthier body image for yourself, and how that can feed into a positive relationship with your mental health more broadly. It’s also really helpful to read up on the ways our culture influences how we think about differently sized bodies. We particularly recommend Sofie Hagen’s book Happy Fat – it’s funny and often very personal, but will also make you want to start a revolution. Michael Hobbes’s article on the “obesity epidemic” also offers a lot of insight into the struggles and discrimination that many fat people face in their personal relationships and interactions with doctors as a result of fatphobia.
We talk a lot about the “obesity crisis”, but the way many of our politicians and media are talking about bodies and health is so counterproductive that it’s damaging how many of us see our own body and our mental health along with it, while not making us any physically healthier. For all our sakes, it’s time we start having a more productive conversation around health and bodies, and started recognising beautiful bodies in all their different shapes and sizes.