Several high-profile men have offered to take pay cuts to help the gender parity cause. Huw Edwards, Nicky Campbell, John Humphrys, Jon Sopel, Nick Robinson, and Jeremy Vine at the BBC all offered to have their pay cut to be more in line with that of their female colleagues. Shortly after their announcement, EasyJet’s new CEO Johan Lundgren offered to reduce his salary to match that of his female predecessor who earned £34,000 less.
While it is great to see these high-powered men taking a stand, it is frustrating that we have to uncover ‘scandals’ in order to achieve change. EasyJet took a media beating when it was revealed that its gender pay gap came to 52%, not to mention the ongoing media cloud hanging over the BBC. These scandals are hardly new though. We have known about gender pay parity issues for decades. Will this latest media storm lead to lasting change?
So far, these pay cuts have been by high-profile men earning enormous salaries. At the end of the day, £34,000 is barely a dent in Lundgren’s sizable salary (still coming in at £706,000 before bonuses). It is great PR, but does it really help?
These sensational stories of large voluntary pay cuts have a darker side. What happens to men on far more modest wages?
Take, for instance, the lawsuits currently ongoing against some of the UK’s largest supermarket chains (including Tesco, Asda, and Sainsbury’s). Shop floor workers are earning at least £3 less per hour than predominantly male warehouse works, doing very similar jobs. But both sides of this issue are earning little more than minimum wage – it should be a company’s responsibility to pay their workers equal wage for equal work. Is this lauding of male voluntary pay-cuts helpful? Will men who earn barely more than minimum wage be expected to take a damaging hit to pay in favour of their company’s bottom line?
The BBC’s problems began more than six months ago, when the pay of their top earners was released, revealing that women made up only a third of that list, with the highest earning woman well below the highest-earning man. The PwC was hired to carry out an objective review of the payment practices but further courted controversy after finding no evidence of gender bias. The inequalities reported were written off as ‘anomalies’ rather than a systemic bias. Four of their highest earners taking a voluntary pay cut does nothing to change the system that birthed the inequality in the first place.
As much as we appreciate our male allies taking a stand, change needs to come in the form of a) recognition that there is a systemic issue and b) strategic, company-wide change in the hiring and pay practices.
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