The gender pay gap has dominated the headlines recently. Eight in ten firms in the UK pay women less than men. Also, women in England with postgraduate degrees still earn less than men with only bachelor’s degrees, while salaries for graduate men are growing at a faster pace than for their female peers.
We can argue a multitude of reasons why the gender pay gap exists, from the motherhood penalty to the fact that women are three times less likely to get the salary increase even when they ask for it. This may be because women are perceived to argue on the basis of emotion while men are viewed as logical. So when a man says why he deserves what he wants, he is much more likely to get it. The ‘emotional female’ is still not appreciated in the workplace.
Whatever direction you’re approaching the pay gap conversation, I think we can all agree on one thing.
Women did not create the pay gap. The patriarchy did.
Patriarchy is an operating system and doesn't mean the same as 'all men'. It has been crafted over thousands of years by many men, and also by many women, and both the men and women of today help it flourish.
Rather than staying stuck in the past and pointing fingers at the culprits, I’d welcome a shift in the pay gap conversation that helps find solutions and creates change, fast. At the current rate we’ll reach pay parity in 202 years, according to the World Economic Forum.
If you have a system that doesn't work, are you going to wait for the people who created the system to fix it? Or are you going to get some new people in to set up something that actually works for everyone?
The conversation about the pay gap is rotating around the former: those who are to blame should fix it. This angle offers very few solutions for fast action, especially if you’re a woman who’d like to get paid equally today.
In life you always have two options: You can fight to be ‘right’ or you can choose to find a strategy that helps you ‘win’.
Women are sharing the same dilemma. Are we going to wait for patriarchy to fix itself so we can prove we’ve been the victims of the system for so long and feel vindicated? Or are we going to take matters into our own hands to get the results we want, now?
I don’t know about you but I’m voting to take action now.
This is the message I'm trying to share to help advance the conversation around equal pay and the structural imbalances preventing equality.
I founded DrivenWoman for women to have a forum where they could find their own direction and inner drive to start changing what they can, now. It’s not about ‘fixing’ women, quite the contrary. When we find the value in being exactly who we are as women and stop imitating the patriarchy, we will become unstoppable.
Our mission is to help women see what they can do to change their fortunes in life and in their careers. Becoming aware of the choices they can make here and now, will help them to reach better outcomes in the future.
Women do not have an interest in playing the victim.
DrivenWoman conducted a nationwide survey on women’s attitudes towards their contribution to the gender pay gap. We wanted to learn if women are ready to take action. The current pay gap conversation has painted women as helpless victims of the patriarchal system, but a staggering 98% of women think they could be doing more to end gender pay inequality.
The results revealed that over a third of women think that not believing in their own self-worth is preventing the pay gap from shrinking, and forty-five per cent think that not negotiating higher salaries contributes directly to pay inequality.
Other factors that women believe contribute to the gender pay gap include not putting themselves forward for promotions (34%), not proactively working to change corporate structures (21%), not taking action on their own ideas (23%) and not taking full responsibility for their personal growth (17%). One respondent describes the pay gap as the ‘mother penalty’ and another believes women are being ‘too compliant by adhering to old subservient stereotypes’.
However, not everyone has reflected positively on the research findings.
Grazia led with the headline "Two Thirds Of Women Believe They're Responsible For The Pay Gap - Here's Why They're Wrong”, discussing how women now also carry guilt from the pay gap. The women’s glossies seem to be riding on the guilt factor as something that unites women. Why?
“Apparently it's not enough that we get paid less, we've also got to enjoy a nice big side helping of guilt.” writes Grazia’s Rebecca Reid.
Blaming women for not getting equal compensation is just silly. Research shows women don’t get the pay rises they ask for. Grazia’s article leaves women hanging in the air with nowhere to go. It’s clearly not women’s fault they are not getting paid what they are worth.
But then what?
The Telegraph spent a little more time elaborating on the topic and painting a richer picture sharing research by NatWest that found 28 per cent of working women felt imposter syndrome had stopped them from speaking in a meeting, while 26 per cent had failed to change career or role because of it.
Sam Smethers, chief executive of the Fawcett Society commented that "The gender pay gap is not the product of women's choices” .
Emma Stewart, co-founder and chief executive of Timewise, added : “The issue isn’t that women need fixing in the workplace.”
I couldn’t agree more with both Smethers and Steward.
Emma Steward offers great solutions including shaping senior roles so that they are better designed for women and offering flexible working for both genders to allow sharing of family responsibilities.
Women don’t need to be fixed so why is everyone taking the blame angle?
Our study reveals that women want to take a more hands on approach to fix the problem, not that they want to take the blame.
The problem lies with the system, of course. But that’s hardly any news.
At the moment women are offered only reasons why we ended up here and no real solutions, or just solutions that are out of our control. “The system must change” is a great thing to campaign for, but it leaves most women feeling helpless in the here and now as they don’t believe they have much control over the system.
In fact women have much more control over the system than we think.
Every day women bring their talent and inherent brilliance to work simply to be rejected equal pay.
If your brilliance is not appreciated you should take it elsewhere.
By tolerating the system we are giving it a silent approval. This of course happens subconsciously and most women are unaware that they can make other choices. Everything we do in life is a choice. When you choose to work for a firm that doesn't treat its employees equally - it's a choice, no matter how unfair.
I know this is not what most people want to hear. It’s always easier when you have someone else to blame. But blaming doesn't offer any solutions. Women have been left hanging as the ‘victims’ of the system for too long. It’s time to take control of our own lives.
The results of our study proves that women want to take control.
Women are rising up as an unstoppable force recognising their role in the value chain. It's a very positive message, not a negative one. There’s no need to portray our research findings as inflicting more guilt on women or making females feel even more victimised.
We’re taking control when we accept that women could be doing more to help close the gender pay gap. With control comes empowerment!
When we start making conscious choices and seek to work only for companies who demonstrate pay transparency that aligns with our values, then we are winning. It encourages companies to change faster when they are losing talent en masse. The patriarchy can’t survive without female support!
What do you think?
DrivenWoman is a female only empowerment platform and accountability network, that helps ambitious women to achieve their goals and dreams by creating positive habits one step at a time. Thousands of women around the world have joined our program and are achieving their life goals, which range from entrepreneurial dreams to career change or simply being more confident in their own skin and enjoying life in the present moment.
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