The Notion That Some Jobs Are ‘Women’s Work’ Hinders Equal Pay By Kelly Grehan

So, the court of appeal have ruled that Asda’s lower-paid store staff, who are mainly female, can compare themselves to higher-paid warehouse workers, who are mainly male, in pay claims.  

This claim could cost ASDA £8 billion in settlements, but first staff need to demonstrate the jobs are of equal value.

They might find this hard – because any job primarily performed by men is considered somehow harder.  

 

When ever the pay gap is discussed the response is often to point out that women pay the price (literally) for the decisions they make with relation to maternity and childcare, and there may be some truth in that, but there is another issue – all work traditionally or predominantly undertaken by women is considered of less value than work traditionally or predominately undertaken by men.

According to the Office of National Statistics the jobs in the UK with the lowest annual pay are:

● Waiters and waitresses

● Leisure and theme park attendants

● Bar staff

● Hairdressers

● Launderers and dry cleaners

● Kitchen and catering assistants

● Check-out operators

● Care escorts

● School crossing patrol

● Cleaners

● Nurses

● Pharmacy dispensers

● Sewing machinists

● Elementary admin

● Florists

 

It is hard to argue against the fact that most people employed in those roles are women.

 

It is interesting that, 50 years since the machinists at Ford started a strike which led to the Equal Pay Act 1970, sewing machinists remain on poor wages.  

 

Let’s look at some other examples and see if we can find reasons for their low wage:-

 

98% of nursery workers are female.

Most will have spent 2 years obtaining a level 3 qualification.  

Most can expect to earn minimum wage.

Let’s just think about that for a moment – this is one of the most important jobs imaginable – looking after under 5’s; changing their nappies, teaching them to share, teaching them to count, making them feel secure.  

But, somewhere along the line we decided people doing this role were only entitled to minimum wage.

Anyone who has ever been to a florist know it is not cheap! I had naively assumed the reason flowers cost so much more in the florist in comparison to in the supermarket or on the market was due to paying for the expertise of the worker, but it seems not.  

This is another minimum wage occupation.  

It is, ironic that the ASDA ruling occurred on the same day that Jess Phillips spoke in the House of Commons on proposals to impose a £30,000 pay threshold for EU workers to be considered skilled.  

She commented that many of her constituents do skilled work, including nursing, but earn less than £30,00.  She then went on to say “I have met many people who earn way more than £30,000 and have literally no discernible skills, not even one.”

Isn’t this something we have all experienced? People paid lots and you wonder ‘how?’

Are they usually men?

Historically, women did all the unpaid labour in the home.  This is no longer the case, but knocking down the culture that assumes work undertaken by women is of less monetary value has proven hard and hence women earn less.  

If we gave more value to the jobs that are important but are generally paid less then employers might feel more inclined to pay them more, and by default we may begin to address the equal pay discrepancies.