Gender pay-gap myth ignores personal choice of women

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‘Women of Ireland. I call upon thee to down tools from November 13 for the rest of the year.” Stick it up to the patriarchy as from this day the 14pc pay gap, which is measured by the median earnings of full-time wage and salaried workers and doesn’t differentiate really important factors, such as education, occupation, experience, dangerous work, long hours and other factors, comes into effect.

To highlight the unfairness of gender pay inequality, the charity Dress for Success Dublin has launched a WorkEqual campaign for the month of November, designating Tuesday, November 13, as a #workequal day – the day from which we stop earning. The non-profit organisation, which “helps women to enter the workforce and establish sustainable careers”, is planning on highlighting the issue by hosting public events, political engagements and awareness-raising activities.

Globally, the wage gap has been getting massive PR in recent years, most actively from Hollywood and prominent women who feel they don’t get paid the same amount as a man doing the same job does.

But how can you really quantify it? One of the best studies on the wage gap was released in 2009 by the US Department of Labour. It examined more than 50 peer- reviewed papers and concluded the 23pc US wage gap “may be almost entirely the result of individual choices being made by both male and female workers”.

A study by Georgetown University found the best-paid college majors, such as petroleum engineer, had 87pc male participation, while the worst-paying majors, such as social work or childcare, had a majority of female majors.

The problem with the ‘wage gap’ phenomenon is it eliminates the word choice. We have a choice to pick better-paying careers and we have a choice to go back to our jobs as partners in law firms and work 80-hour weeks, after having children, but many of us don’t. According to the CSO, the wage gap for those aged 30 and under is 0.8pc. It rises to 5.8pc in the 30 to 40 age bracket, when many women start families.

In the UK, women in their 20s have reversed the gender pay gap. Figures compiled by the Press Association show that, between the ages of 22 and 29, a woman will earn €1,265 more per annum than her male counterpart. Again, it appears to grow after women traditionally start having children. So our biological make-up decides many of us don’t want to work long hours, on oil rigs, in coal mines or as CEOs. And we can’t change our reproductive systems and mothering instincts, even though I’m sure someone is working on it in Palo Alto.

I would personally spend more time with my child than be deployed to Syria, but if women want to do that, they can. There’s a weird push for women to get into offices and keep them there, and I think it would be easier to work from home. Why not jack in the outdated concept of nine to five and let men and women, if the job allows, work from home? That will create a level playing field. I can’t be a pilot from the comfort of my living room, but I can write a report at 8pm as much as I can at 3pm or on a Sunday morning while the kids are playing.

As rental and housing costs drive us further out of the city, think of the time in traffic that could be used otherwise. Some 25pc of Dublin workers commute from outside the city and suburbs – 130,000 people from a daytime working population of 512,449. Imagine if these could work from home. The money and time saved could mean more women working. Also it gets around the childcare issue.

The wage gap has been debunked. We get a lot of facts thrown at us, and surely there are women who earn less than the men they work with, but if they do, they need to figure out the many variables that could cause this, highlight the issue, and negotiate a better contract.

Paying men and women differently for doing the exact same job is illegal, but it’s certainly not rampant.

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