The gender pay gap and the reluctant feminist

Until I read Caitlin Moran’s How to Be a Woman, I would never have identified myself as a feminist. In fact, I would have said I was anti-feminism, deluded as I was about its actual meaning. Somehow, I had personified feminism as a bunch of nagging, whiny women who complained about how unfair life was and who scoffed and rebutted any nice men’s gestures such as opening doors for them and paying the bill. I certainly didn’t want to be so independent that I had to go dutch on the first date. Damn straight I want the guy to pay!

But when put into simple terms that I could relate to, being a woman who has spent her entire career working in the corporate world, I had to admit that I actually was a (reluctant) feminist.

Did I believe that people should be remunerated based on skill?

Well, yes, obviously.

Did I realise that in most industries, and more specifically to me, at manager level, there is still a significant pay gap between the average salaries earned by males vs females?

Er, no.

And in fact, that in 2011 the gender pay gap for managers in the UK actually widened to £10,546?*

What? How is that even possible in these supposedly modern times?

In reality, I had never really stopped to think about it. I never think to compare myself to my male colleagues – I live in the, possibly deluded, belief that I am their equal in both capability and pay.

Compounding my inflated self-belief is the discipline I work in – marketing. Generally quite a female dominated function; there has never been a time when I have felt that men were ahead of the curve in my area of expertise.

Imagine my surprise when I opened a Marketing Week magazine this month and found that the average gender pay gap for marketers in the UK is £11,465**. Even more than for managers in the UK generally! In marketing! MY marketing! Female dominated marketing!

With disbelief I pored over the details. Sure, in the FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) industry where I work, this isn’t the case at Marketing Director level where we are basically equal to our male counterparts. But for the vast majority of job levels, from Brand Manager through to Marketing Manager, the gender pay gap was stark and undeniable.

I am shocked, and frankly embarrassed, that while we live in a progressive society where immigration is accepted, education and health care are accessible to all, and anti-discrimination laws exist and are upheld – in fact, in a society where women have all the same legal rights as men do – that there is still a significant gender pay gap in favour of men, in a discipline dominated by women.

It is absolutely unacceptable that capability should not be rewarded equally. And if you’re going to try and tell me that all women in marketing are less capable than men, I will have to assume you are joking or bitch slap you. Possibly both.

So ultimately, what can we do about the situation? I’m not sure I’m qualified to give advice on an area I’ve only started learning about myself. But what I can tell you is this – believe in yourself and your abilities. If you know you can do the job, and you aren’t getting a salary offer that you believe to be fair market value, then push harder. Be the negotiator you want to be! Of the two roles I have accepted while living in the UK, my final agreed salary was a minimum of 10% more than what was initially offered, and I have turned down better salaried offers because I wanted to take the roles I did. You might not be able to change the world, but you can definitely contribute towards turning the tide.


*Chartered Management Institute Survey of 34,158 UK executives
**Marketing Week Volume 35, No. 2, 12th January 2012 edition, Salary Survey 2012


2 thoughts on “The gender pay gap and the reluctant feminist

  1. Mary Wollstonecraft, in ‘A Vindication of the rights of woman’ was not one of the first to suggest that ‘intellect will always govern and sought’ however she was among the first to ‘persuade women to endeavour to acquire strength, both of mind and body…’

    If a boy and a girl are taught in the same, proper way and progress onto higher education and beyond, both attaining a PhD, and both becoming lecturers at the same university… they would receive the same pay right? WRONG!
    It is unbelievable that institutions such education for example, where equality is taught, discussed, and debated endlessly, still instils the fundamentals of a somewhat Roman society.
    Obviously society has moved on leaps and bounds regarding equality for women since the Wollstonecraft days (even if it did take a world war to prove women are capable of everything men can do) however, it has to be said that this issue has almost fizzled out of society’s view… There is a blatant divide, a prejudicial gap in pay between men and women, yet it is allowed and deemed as ‘right’ in this apparently, ever evolving, equal country that we call home.

  2. Pingback: Equal pay for equal work | Laugh Lots, Travel Often

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