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Pin money belief undervalues women’s work

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It’s more than 30 years since the Equal Pay Act came into force and the cost of living has soared, yet research funded by the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) has revealed that many people still think that women only work for ‘pin money’.

Written by Damian Grimshaw and Jill Rubery, from the University of Manchester’s European Work and Employment Research Centre, Undervaluing Women’s Work reveals there are still strong stereotypical views of women in working roles.

For example, women are perceived as ‘naturally’ good at caring roles which leads to insufficient investment in or recognition of their skills.

According to the report, this type of undervaluation links the three causes of the gender pay gap: occupational segregation, discrimination and women’s unequal share of family responsibilities.

Undervaluation is defined as: ‘a higher quality of labour for a given wage’ and the authors say it is being overlooked within current policy debates and proposals.

Education makes little difference as women with degrees in the same subject and at the same grade as men may still be paid less – the gap widens with experience even before family responsibilities affect graduates’ careers.

Women who return to work often have to accept part-time employment. Not only does this mean they may be working below their potential but they also may be forced into working for organisations that have a low ability to pay or have a low willingness to pay.

Segregation into certain types of jobs means women’s skills may not be as visible or valued as men’s. Skills that are perceived as ‘natural’ may also mean that opportunities for high levels of job satisfaction are considered justification for low levels of pay.

The authors also say: “Starting salaries and individualised pay increments tend to be lower for women than for men. Men appear both more able or willing to engage in individual bargaining and to use external pay offers to boost pay.

“Performance pay acts to maintain or exaggerate undervaluation by being more common in, and providing higher rewards in, male-dominated occupations; by being based on discretion; and by being based on variable, subjective, or male-biased, criteria of assessment.”

Another factor the report highlights is the decline in pay for both sexes in the occupations where women have gained a significant employment share since 1991. These occupations include banking sector managers and personnel managers – and the finding mirrors that of earlier research in the US.

The full report – which stretches to nearly 200 pages – can be found here

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