Why is there still a gender pay gap in the work place?

Why is there still a gender pay gap in the work place?


This topic is one that I can relate to. Not because I have experienced it personally but because I watched my Mum experience it in her place of work.

My Mum discovered that men in her work place were receiving a higher rate of pay than she was. These same men were doing the exact same job as her, some were not even as qualified as she was, and she had been there a lot longer. To cut a long story short, she fought against this and was able to claim back so many years of equal pay, but why did it happen in the first place? In this day and age?


It is 2016, and we live in a society that is supposedly equal. The Equal Pay Act was passed in 1970. That’s 46 years ago! Yet here we are still discussing differences in the wages of men and women. In 2010 a second Equal Pay Act was passed which stated that men and women were entitled to the same wages if they were doing the same, or broadly similar job to a man, or work that was rated equivalent or as equal value to a mans job. I suppose this was a way to put an end to job titles being renamed or rated differently to justify a woman being paid less, which did happen after the 1970 act was passed.


In any case, any changes that these acts were suppose to have resulted in, have not been fully achieved since differences in wages for men and women is still an issue. Let’s ponder these reasons…

According to the Fawcett society, the following reasons are the main problems facing equal pay. This article will discuss each of the reasons they propose.


  • Discrimination – Illegal? Yes very much so. Does it matter? Apparently not. Discrimination can still happen in the work place. Especially around maternity leave, when women can often feel pressured into leaving or taking a less paid role.
  • Social values – No matter how we try, women can’t seem to shake the stereotypical image of being primary care givers. There are predominantly more women in part time work since they are much more likely to take on the role of caring for the Holstein or for elderly family members. This effectively results in their work place offering less opportunities for promotions due to being part time and therefore taking home a lower wage.
  • The glass ceiling theory – Some may argue there is no such thing as the glass ceiling, however men are much more likely to be in senior roles than women are. Even if this fact has decreased over the years, it is clear that the glass ceiling may still hold some relevance.
  • Job sectors – In relation to more women staying at home in care giver roles, there are much more women in caring roles in the job market, or in lower paid sectors of the job market. Care giver roles or low skilled roles tend to be those jobs that are seen as feminine. This essentially has an impact on the ratio of earnings in general.


It’s unfair to say that women face the same issues in the work place as they did forty or fifty years ago because that is far from true. However it is also unfair to say we now live in an equal society. The reasons above outline why women still face inequality in the work place.

I remember when I was leaving school, many girls in my year were looking at pursuing social work, healthcare, hairdressing, beauty and teaching, which incidentally are generally viewed as feminine, and will of course have lower wages. There are exceptions of course, some women will do exceptionally well in these roles and go on to earn a decent wage, and some girls will have pursued more masculine careers and done well for themselves.

I personally think that one of the most important things we need to do as a society in order to eradicate differences in pay, is to encourage children from a young age to pursue any career they want without categorising them, or identifying them as feminine or masculine roles. In school and at home, it is important a child has no influence in terms of what is deemed as socially acceptable for them to do as a job in the future.

I think we have a long way to go before the gender pay gap is no longer an issue, but if children now are encouraged to not define roles as feminine or masculine, and to view women as equal competitors in the job market, the next generation may have a better chance of solving the problem.


Written by Katy James



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