Good news ladies! According to the latest statistics British working women have achieved a historic level of wage parity. Don’t get too excited though – we still get paid, on average, 13.2% less than men.
But hey, we’re less unequal than ever before! Hurrah!
Averages are ugly, and the deeper you dig beneath the shiny skin of this statistic the more it stinks. Women who work part-time earn 38% less than men in similar jobs. By retirement age women are nearly 50% poorer than men (all these statistics, incidentally, come from Metro – part of the viciously conservative Mail group of newspapers). Free financial paper City AM reports an even more depressing fact: while the average man working in Canary Wharf earns £100,000 the average woman only earns £43,000.
Whoa. Fuck. £57,000 per year, less. That’s a lot of fucking money. How did that happen? Simone Sasson (of the Women in Business Club) speculates that, since male and female graduates are offered similar salaries, the massive chasm in actual earnings opens gradually. “A lot of research suggests that once women are in their jobs, they do not negotiate pay packages according to their value. Men are probably more aggressive and women have a more modest approach,” she says.
It doesn’t take much imagination to see how it works. Men – still the huge majority in the City – are conditioned to covet ‘boy’s toys’, many of them have been brought up through back-slapping public school networks that gave them a huge(ly inflated) sense of self-importance, and most importantly they compare. Their cocks, their cars, their salaries. The few women in their midst are shut out of this boys’ club. They don’t have an equivalent female group with whom to compare their achievements and compensations. And they’re too polite or too intimidated to ask the men how much they’re making.
So while the men are egging each other on, grasping for bigger bonuses and fatter paycheques the women are going about their work. ‘Modest’ and isolated. They probably console themselves with the fact they are earning well above the national average wage, but they don’t realise just how much they’re being short changed compared to their colleagues. If they decide to have kids their earning power takes another huge hit – while their partners’ earning power is totally unaffected.
This lack of financial equality makes social ‘equality’ another burden for women. Women in, say, the City, are expected to own expensive suits, get expensive haircuts, spend money on expensive personal maintenance. They are also expected to stand their round at the pub, and if they don’t have equally expensive holidays or equally nice flats they feel left out. ‘Keeping up with the Joneses’ costs women proportionately more than men – leaving them with less money to save or invest. No wonder by the time they hit retirement age they have only 57% as much wealth as men!
Apparently if the wage gap carries on decreasing at the same rate as the past few years it will take another thirty years before we reach parity. Fantastic.
Meantime, the only thing that’s going to save us is to stop being polite. Stop being modest. Start kicking up a fuss. I suggest this weird social taboo about wages be dispensed with (in Scandinavia people’s wages are a matter of public records, and they’re surviving just fine) – let’s start talking about how much money we’re making. Tell other people how much you make. Don’t be embarrassed if it’s a lot, or a little. Stop assuming that if you’re getting paid less it must be because you’re worth less. Look at the men around you. Do you think they do 15% – or 50% – more work than you? I doubt it.