Equality still a long way from reality

FIRST Minister Nicola Sturgeon has often said she wishes her political success to act as an inspiration to girls and young women. We hope it does; Ms Sturgeon stands as a shining example to more than half the population that one can achieve one's ambitions, regardless of gender.

Monday, 25th September 2017, 8:12 am
The First Minister's success has not yet translated into gender equality in all workplaces (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
The First Minister's success has not yet translated into gender equality in all workplaces (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

But the careers of the First Minister and other high profile women cannot conceal the reality that true equality in the workplace has not yet been achieved. New research shows that the pay gap between male and female managers in Scotland is 21.5 per cent, an average of almost £8,000-a-year. We may talk of glass ceilings being smashed but, time and again, women are less valued than men by employers.

There are a number of reasons that this state of affairs was able to develop. Historically - in the days when gender inequality was par for the course - jobs that were seen as “women’s work” were less valued than those more often associated with men. And to this day, sectors that attract a high proportion of female staff - primary education, for example, or nursing - offer salaries that many believe inadequate. And if a woman succeeds into breaking into what might be seen as the professional “man’s world”, she would be wrong to expect to be offered the same salary as a male counterpart.

Any number of tribunal cases have confirmed that many private companies are perfectly comfortable - as long as the facts remain secret - paying women less than they pay men. Glasgow City Council - facing a £500million bill after losing a legal battle for female workers to be compensated for years of lower wages - is just one organisation learning that discriminating against women can be a, rightly, costly business.

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It shouldn’t need to be said in 2017 that women are men’s equals and should be treated as such but the depressing truth is that, as this latest pay survey shows, it’s a truth that very much bears reassertion.

Clearly, action is required to bring about gender-equality in the workplace. But while legislation can take care (in theory) of black and white issues such as pay, it cannot change a business culture that often seems to run on testosterone.

Energy provider SSE may have something to teach others here. It has published a report on inclusion and diversity and outlined a series of commitments, aimed at creating gender balance. Employers across Scotland should consider following suit.