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Busting the equal pay myth – prepare to be shocked

On 11th January 2017, International Parity at Work Day was celebrated for the first time

The motivation behind this event was to support the idea of diversity at work and to help with eventually eliminating the disparity in salaries between the genders. Here we look at the truth behind the myths.

A spokesperson for the event said that the skills to be effective leaders today were required of everyone, no matter what their intellectual prowess, race, age or gender, and that discrimination had to be eradicated; however, bias against working women, particularly when it comes to pay, persists.

Many people think that offices are the main arenas in which pay discrimination based on gender takes place. This is not true, as actresses in the American film industry have complained of the difference in their salaries compared with male actors. The differences are also notable in sport; for example, male winners of major golf tournaments are rewarded more than women, while men are rewarded much more abundantly than women in football.

A commonly-held belief is that the difference in salaries becomes much more pronounced for women in their 30s. This is also untrue, as pay differences start much earlier.

According to one study, there is already a disparity of five per cent amongst workers still in their 20s. Other research indicates that pay gaps can start in childhood, with some boys paid more than their sisters for the same tasks around the home.

A myth persists that the big difference in pay begins when women become mothers; however, we now know that it starts before then. Research conducted in 2004 indicated that nearly 40% of the difference in salary between males and females in the UK was simply the result of gender; additionally, up to 70% of employers felt that women should disclose that they were expecting a baby when they made job applications. About one-quarter also believed it was fair to ask prospective female employees whether they planned to get pregnant.

Other research has shown that when employers examined applications for jobs where the qualifications offered were the same, the applications bearing male names were given higher ratings of competency and offered more money.

Another frequent fallacy is that men receive more money because they put in more hours. This is also not true, as demonstrated when full-time earnings are broken down per hour. The difference in the UK between what men and women earn is nearly 14%; if the difference was calculated across the EU, the discrepancy would rise to more than 30%.

Maternity leave is another reason often offered for the gap in pay between women and men. Before 2015, when shared leave for both parents was established in the UK, by necessity women had to take most of the maternity leave. If women want to return to work, childcare can be extremely expensive and cost more than £1,000 per month, which often puts it out of sensible range.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission also reported that more than 50,000 mothers each year were leaving their positions due to being treated badly, being forced to accept redundancy, or simply being fired.

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