Thursday 14 November 2019 4:29 am

DEBATE: Is ‘Equal Pay Day’ a valid part of the gender pay-gap debate?

Vivienne Artz is president of Women in Banking and Finance UK (WiBF).
Emily Carver
Emily Carver is media manager at the Institute of Economic Affairs.

Is ‘Equal Pay Day’ a valid part of the gender pay-gap debate?

Vivienne Artz, president of the industry networking group Women in Banking & Finance, says YES.

What gets measured gets done. Equal Pay Day is calculated annually from the UK government’s datasets on the gender pay gap, and effectively represents the day each year that women are no longer paid for the work they do. While it is a fairly blunt tool, it does provoke the discussions which are (sadly) still very much needed.

Just as an organisation would never publish their financial results without commentary, alongside this annual reminder, we need to have an open and honest dialogue about the causes for the gender pay gap, which clears the path for evidence-based solutions.

Unequal pay is a business issue, with serious implications for risk management, profitability, corporate social responsibility and governance, which will only be solved with a business-led approach.

2020 will mark 50 years since the Equal Pay Act was passed, and 40 years of Women in Banking & Finance. While we are making progress toward genuine gender equality, I shall be looking forward to when there is no need for the debate at all.

Emily Carver, media manager at the Institute of Economic Affairs, says NO.

Telling women that they start “working for free” from today makes for good headlines but distorts the narrative around women in work.

The campaign runs with the crudest interpretation of the Office for National Statistics’ gender pay gap data, which fails to make like-for-like comparisons between jobs, education or experience.

It conveniently ignores all the good news: for women under 40 the pay gap has disappeared — perhaps unsurprising considering that the gender gap in university admissions now sits firmly in women’s favour. And in part-time work, the pay gap has reversed in favour of women.

While the gap begins to widen from age 40, the claim that this is purely down to sexism ignores the impact that occupational differences and personal choices — including the decision to leave work to raise children — bear on life-long earnings.

While it may be in the feminist lobby’s interests to perpetuate narratives of women as victims, blatantly misrepresenting data does more to damage their cause than help further gender equality.

Main image credit: Getty

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