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Mind The Gender Pay Gap - Time For A Royal Commission

02/03/2017 17:07 GMT | Updated 02/03/2017 17:07 GMT
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all women everywhere

When will the Government take women seriously? All the latest research says that we are, as usual, falling behind men in terms of pay.

But at least as troubling as the general, depressing discrimination we all face is the fact that it seems to be skilled and trained women losing out most of all.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies reports that the gap in hourly rates of pay for women who have been through higher education remains the same as 20 years ago. It seems barely credible.

What we need is a Royal Commission to look into the systemic disregard with which women's interests, and ability to contribute to the economy, are still overlooked by the mechanisms of state and industry. We have done the Parliamentary hand-wringing, the warm words from ministers, and the voluntary targets. Enough.

The plain truth is that none of them have worked, they have at best distracted. Meanwhile, another generation of talented females will complete their working life having earned less, arguably for doing much more, that their male equivalents.

The Fawcett Society says that women now earn 13.9% less than men, part of which it suggests may be down to fewer in higher positions, part is also probably down to the old girl's network hardly being a phrase that trips off the tongue. Breaks to have families are also clearly a strain on careers, too, as can be the demands of subsequent flexible working.

But none of this is insurmountable given how flexibly everyone seems to work these days, even if the Equal Pay Act of 1970 and the Equality Act of 2010 both seem to be.

Meanwhile, mothers will generally earn 33% less than men 12 years after their first child is born.

The misogyny that exists now is subtle, not overt. It is largely down to a media that still assigns gender roles and often seeks to comfort, or at least not offend, the choice to stay at home.

And supposedly gender-neutral Budgets from Government are anything but. A report from the impartial House of Commons Library found that between 2010 and 2015 women felt the brunt of 85% of Treasury savings that amounted to £23 billion.

In addition, for women who do manage to struggle through the structural hurdles thrown up by society, successful men have no particular incentive to increase the competition for top jobs. So they wait quietly until prodded into action. But history suggests that the action that comes generally involves no more than saying the right words, even some tears, and offering a few 'targets'.

We are about to see the first fruits of gender pay reporting, by which larger firms will be required to make information available to show the average gender pay gap. But as this only applies to those with more than 250 employees, many UK businesses will be feeling no pressure whatsoever. Needless to say, the Government is not imposing any nasty sanctions on enterprises with a deplorable gap (we're in 'target' territory, naturally). Apparently, moral pressure should be enough to bring about change. We should try not to be cynical.

Unfortunately, escalating rhetoric is not turning into practical change. We are about to face Brexit. Now would be a good time to get the most out of half the working population who are being devalued, and about whom some more imaginative thinking is needed to bring properly and fairly into the workforce. In other words, we need a Royal Commission.

HuffPost UK is running a month-long project in March called All Women Everywhere, providing a platform to reflect the diverse mix of female experience and voices in Britain today

Through blogs, features and video, we'll be exploring the issues facing women specific to their age, ethnicity, social status, sexuality and gender identity. If you'd like to blog on our platform around these topics, email ukblogteam@huffingtonpost.com