NUIG Sin's Deirdre Leonard examines the gender pay gap and how it manifests in an 'equal' society.
A recent report published in The Irish Times has stated that in 2015, men earned an average of 14.8% more than women in Ireland, indicating that the pay disparity has increased from a low of 8.3% in 2012. Some believe the pay gap to be a myth, undoubtedly a mentality that stems from a lack of communication surrounding wages in the workplace. Others see it to be discriminatory on the basis of gender, an unlikely cause with the number of EU laws in place prevent job discrimination.
 
So what is the reasoning behind this? Why have women consistently been paid less for doing the same job as men for decades? Men who may have less qualifications or experience, but who are statistically likely to be earning more money, are getting bigger pay increases and winning more promotions over time compared to their female counterparts.
 
The Journal countered this Times report with an article that determined that this pay gap is ‘often strongly related to gender, but gender itself is not the cause’. Statistics show that the more qualifications and experience a woman has, the higher the gender pay gap is. With a lack of qualifications or experience not being contributing factors, all signs point to gender itself as the issue. Essentially, a job cannot fault you outright for being female, but it will take issue with you for some of the societal expectations that come with womanhood, like motherhood, or the consequences of the female body, like period related sick days.
 
Many jobs set wages and give promotions based on performance and, as The Journal points out, women can often fall behind in these areas due to motherhood. Maternity leave can force you out of a path towards promotion and give someone else plenty of time to fill your spot. Mothers are often unable to work unsociable hours or travel for work, which means that someone like the young bachelor in your department is free to gain favour and progress faster by working outside of the clock.
 
These are sadly the facts of any workplace but to suggest that a women should earn less because she is entitled to maternity leave, or because of her life decisions, is an archaic train of thought that belongs in a different millennium. Women with families are inherently already working two jobs, but having the responsibility of children and the flexibility that this requires is often seen as a weakness by employers looking for workers.
 
I work within a department where women are the majority and for a company where the balance of women and men in top positions is fairly equal. I can’t speak to the pay of other people in these jobs, but on paper, it checks out as being equal in representation. However, I know that this is not the case in a lot of workplaces. My mother has a Masters degree and works in a respectable government job that she has dedicated her adult life to, and yet she was forced to take a second job during the Recession to cover the money lost through pay cuts.
 
My father, on the other hand, a man who suffered the curse of many young teens in rural Ireland in the 70s and 80s, left secondary school at a young age. He did not attend university, has no formal qualifications and yet he is in a job that pays almost as much as my mother’s because he has, what his company has deemed to be, a ‘risk filled occupation’. It is one that involves security, heavy lifting, and a number of other risky tasks that have most definitely influenced how the company hires. In his workplace, men are the majority and outside of admin work, a handful of women work alongside dozens of men in a day to day capacity.
 
There are solutions to this problem. In the workforce, people do not talk about pay. It’s spoken in hushed tones between close work friends, with a fearful look and cautious voice, afraid to hear or say that you are earning more or less than the person sitting beside you. Last year, Ireland introduced new transparency rules whereby all companies made up of 50 employees or more must submit wage and bonus data for publication. It’s yet to be confirmed when these will be rolled out, but transparency is a powerful step towards resolving this issue, one step of many that needs to be taken to achieve the most basic form of equality.
 
The global pay gap is at around 59% according to recent statistics from Morgan McKinley, with Ireland coming 25th in the world rankings for male to female pay ratios. In a developed, Western country where there are statistically more women than men, the pay gap should be significantly less than it currently is or, ideally, not present at all. Ireland prides itself on its education, its scientific and cultural progress, but we let ourselves down when we do not acknowledge one gender as being equal to another. In 2017, when battles for equal rights are being fought all over the world, we cannot move forward when we continue to take steps backward in the most basic of issues. Being a woman does not make you any less and it’s time our pay scales reflected and corrected this stifling social injustice.
 
Story courtesy of NUIG's Online Student Newspaper SIn