The Equal Pay Act was passed in 1970. Since then it has been illegal for UK employers to pay women less than men for doing the same job. Instead they have had to pay people who might get pregnant / have higher-pitched voices / are called names like “Katie” rather than “Robbie” less than men for doing the same job. This is what we call progress.
Almost fifty years after the passing of the Act, the gender pay gap stands at 9.1%. There have been many reasons given for this discrepancy in the rewarding of male and female labour. The obvious one – sexism in association with patriarchy’s need to appropriate and exploit female sexual, reproductive and domestic labour – remains the best, but men don’t tend to like it. Therefore the manufacturing of other explanations has become an industry in its own right.
This week a headline in The Telegraph told us that the gender pay gap was “perpetuated by teenage girls who want jobs that pay less”. Damn these foolish, low-pay-loving masochists! Is this really what Emily Davison died for?
Of course, once one scratches below the surface of such claims, one finds the reasoning to be more than a little suspect. Do women really choose low-paid careers? Or is the work that women do – whatever it happens to be at any given time – undervalued in relation to work done by men? One might as well blame women for being women (always a handy shortcut).