The idea that men will always earn more than women is deeply ingrained in society. So much so, it is generally believed that if we wish to achieve gender equality in pay, governments must use the law and the courts to rectify the imbalance on behalf of disadvantaged women.
what happens when women start to earn more than men? Should governments
then start doing the opposite? New research by Mary Curnock Cook, head
of the university admissions body, UCAS, which we report on today,
suggests that this is happening already. According to Ms Cook, women
aged 22 to 29 now earn more on average per hour than men of the same age
group. Admittedly, the gap is fairly small, a matter of a few pence per
hour, but it is tremendously significant that women have the advantage
in earnings at all.
In one sense, this result is predictable and
welcome. The world of work has been transformed in the past 30 or 40
years and many of the changes that have occurred have benefited women.
Manual labourers have greatly declined as a proportion of the workforce,
for one thing.
At the other end of the spectrum, the
testosterone-filled world of the boardroom is still an overwhelmingly
male preserve, which is why women seeking top jobs still hit a so-called
glass ceiling. But what's clear is that in that vast economic space
above manual labour and below the boardroom – the bulk of the economy
these days – women finally are gaining a lead over men.
It is a
small lead for the moment, but one that is probably destined to widen
unless the gap in academic achievement between girls and boys in schools
starts to narrow, because this is the root cause of the subsequent gap
in pay. Girls have been outperforming boys academically at schools for
several decades, so it was only a matter of time before that fed through
in terms of a difference in pay.
We should welcome the results
of this survey but feel cause for concern. Ideally, boys and girls
should perform equally at school and then go on to earn roughly the same
amount of money. Simply reversing the old ascendancy of men over women
in terms of pay is not necessarily a leap forward.
Source: Independent (UK), 3 October 2011