Suffolk County Council published its gender pay report last week, days before the deadline of 30 March, revealing that although the Council employs nearly three times as many women as men, there’s still a significant gender pay gap in favour of men.
The County Council’s mean gender pay gap is 14.8% (2.6% below the national average), whilst the median pay gap, at 18.6%, is above the national average. In other words, although Suffolk County Council employs relatively few men, they are overrepresented in the better paid sectors and underrepresented in the less well-paid sectors. All the statistics refer to the average hourly pay rates of employees.
In full council last week, Cllr Caroline Page, LDGI Spokesperson for Women, asked Deputy Leader Jane Storey whether this gap may be because Suffolk has a gender data gap:
“We say we have an occupational maternity scheme. Do we have an occupational paternity scheme? Do we actively promote paternity leave? We say we encourage flexible working – for men as well as women? What are the outcomes? We say we run positive recruitment campaigns to encourage women into roles in traditionally male areas. Are there campaigns to encourage men into traditionally female areas?”
“Unless we take a gender-neutral attitude and support everyone at work equally, women tend to be the ones who generally sacrifice fulltime work, career and salary and end up paid less – and the gender pay gap will continue. Men will also lose out in other ways. They too need support to prevent this happening.”
Cllr Page also queried the comments of the Suffolk County Council spokesperson who attributed the gender pay gap to women working part-time. This comment shows a complete misunderstanding of the figures, given that the pay gap is calculated on the difference in average hourly pay.
The Deputy Leader’s response was confused and suggested a profound misunderstanding of the subject: “I struggle to point out how good an employer we are in terms of women. The only way to reduce the gender pay gap is to not employ women and to employ men.”
According to Cllr Storey, “we employ women [in low paid roles] because that is probably better suited to their characteristics…. Most women are naturally caring”. This response is incredibly concerning. Reverting to “nature” and so-called essential differences between men and women as an explanation for the gender pay gap obscures the real problem and makes it much more difficult to resolve: we need to be confronting these gender stereotypes, not reinforcing them.
Digging herself ever deeper into a slough of sexist stereotypes, Cllr Storey then gave the chamber the example of Virgin Atlantic Airline where “figures are very much skewed towards men because they tend to employ male pilots, male engineers…”
All this shows is that the Suffolk county administration do not understand the Suffolk gender pay gap problem, and therefore cannot be the best people to put it right.
Suffolk County Council’s gender pay report can be read here.
You can watch the 22 March 2018 council meeting, during which the gender pay gap was discussed, here.