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September 20, 2007

Maternity Leave and the Gender Pay Gap

After complaining about the way in which working mothers aren't supported by childless women, after pointing to the new maternity leave rights, Lesley Thomas then says this:

And while we are fighting among ourselves, we have taken our eye off the ball. What we are collectively striving for - equality of pay and opportunities - is being eroded. The pay gap between men and women in the top professional jobs, according to a report published by the Chartered Management Institute, has increased for the first time in a decade, 40 years after the Equal Pay Act came into force.

The gradual shrinking of this chasm is something most women assume to be inevitable; but only if we keep up the moaning and complaining can we end this kind of disparity.

I do wish people would grasp this most essential of points: the gender pay gap is caused (at least in part) by the very existence of such things as extended maternity leave. At it's most simple, of course someone who takes three or four year long absences from the labour force is going to have less human capital than those who slog though  full time. We can also point to the way in which never married childless women do not suffer a gender pay gap, nor lesbians. That the gap is virtually non-existent under the age of 30, widens then shrinks again from the late 40s onwards.

Taking long periods of time out and insisting on being able to work part time (part timers cost more per hour to employ than do full timers)  inevitably reduce the wages paid. So, as in so many things, there's actually a choice that has to made here. Which do you want?  Child friendly policies, parent friendly ones...or no gender pay gap? The thing is, it looks like you've got to choose one or the other: you cn't have both, they're mutually exclusive.

September 20, 2007 in Feminism | Permalink


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Not if society as a whole (by which I mean by influencing the attitudes of employers, probably from birth) decides that women deserve more money, just because.

Just because it's morally indefensible doesn't make it unlikely.

Posted by: Marcin Tustin | Sep 24, 2007 1:29:28 PM

I agree with everything said about maternity leave in that post! Really wonderful article!

Posted by: michael jones | Oct 31, 2007 9:20:08 AM