Should women pay for the equity gap by working longer hours?

It is time to drop the tired old excuses for the increasing disparity between men’s and women’s wages.

This week saw Melbourne University social researcher Mark Wooden argue that men should be earning on average 15 per cent more than women because they put in more time at the workplace. At a National Press Club panel discussion about the pay equity gap he was quoted as saying this:

“All high achievers in all walks of life … put in long hours into their activity,” Professor Wooden said.
“It’s (the pay equity gap) got a lot to do with the fact that women are not prepared to work longer hours.”

Prof Wooden said even if workplaces were family friendly, “many women would not pursue long-hour jobs”.

This of course is ironic because workplaces are still structured around the life patterns of the traditional male worker who does not have primary responsibility for caring for children or elderly parents or the running of the household. The male worker as a result, has the ability to work long hours at a stretch. They are able to choose freely to work on weekends or school holidays, to travel or to be available for shiftwork. The ability to offer an employer this “flexibility” is simply part of the job in many workplaces.

This is no problem for the male worker who has the benefit of a partner to attend to household and caring duties thus leaving him this flexibility in the workplace. Compare this to the position of the female worker. In the same workplace, women’s dual roles in caring for children and participating in paid employment often conflict with this traditional workplace structure. These expectations put pressure on women to leave employment, reduce their hours or refuse promotions and additional responsibilities.

“All high achievers in all walks of life … put in long hours into their activity.” Yes, Professor Wooden, women too are high achievers who put in long hours into their activity, at paid work, and in the home many hours in unpaid work, however their efforts are undervalued and unappreciated by the society who profits from the long hours put into these activities.

What the female worker wants is parity of pay for the equal hours of work undertaken, in the hourly rate. This is not happening because it is useful for employers to discriminate and pay a lesser rate to them.

The economic consequences of undervalued motherhood, inflexible workplaces and discrimination is that they are excluded from full participation in the workplace. It is time to cut the excuses. If women choose to care for children, then they have their rights to work diminished and if they choose a to compete with men on equal terms by relinquishing motherhood for a full time career they are labelled as ” deliberately barren”.

The human rights conventions require active measures by states to remedy these forms of discrimination. Women’s right to work and to be protected from discrimination are key elements of the relevant human rights instruments. Professor Wooden admits that the structure of workplaces is wanting when he says “even if workplaces were family friendly”. No Professor Wooden, workplaces are not family friendly and it is time for the welfare of men, women and children that they become so.

It is time for change. Prof Wooden said closing the gap would require a change in the traditional family structure, I say, that closing the gap should come from change in the traditional structure of the workplace. Women do not have to work harder and longer, they are working hard enough thank you very much. It is time however, for the full scope of their work and efforts to receive the due recognition it deserves!

PHOTO OF THE DAY: Aeriel view of the Mt. Erebus crater, the southernmost active volcano in the world.

Mount Erebus

Photograph by: Christopher Dean, National Science Foundation. Date Taken: October 24, 2005.

~ by abstraktbiblos on Thursday, 8 May, 2008.

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