Stephanie Robinson: We need to tackle the gender pay gap in Scotland

Are we really surprised that the latest research shows the gender pay gap in Scotland is the worst in'¨ the UK and that the pay differential is wider still when new mothers return to work?

Wednesday, 5th October 2016, 6:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 5th October 2016, 3:43 pm
Stephanie Robinson, founding director of HR/employment law specialists Solve

Sadly, in Scotland, women will continue to be paid less because we are still rooted in old-fashioned views of work organisation.

That means there is a reluctance to adopt agile working practices such as remote and flexi-working, favoured by women, especially working mothers.

It has – correspondingly – created an unfortunate culture of presenteeism in the working world. For women workers this has big disadvantages. If they are not there 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday, they are perceived as not as important as someone who is.

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It means staff are being judged on how valuable they are based on how often they are seen in the workplace – and their pay reflects this, rather than the hard outputs and delivery of their roles.

If you think about it and forget about workplaces for a minute, in all forms of life we are constantly training ourselves to judge people and the world on the basis of “what we see” through checking social media posts, photos and videos.

I have a number of friends in Edinburgh who would, and do, choose to retain employment flexibility over a pay increase every time. Why, well because as working mothers we are still battling with the guilt of not being “there” for our children, still like to be able to pick them up from school at 2.30pm/3pm and have the afternoon with them and also often have a house to run.

It is also the case there are still very few CEOs and CFOs in Scotland leading our businesses, which limits the opportunity to take a strong role to promote equality in gender pay.

But it is wrong to just carp and complain. Women themselves need to increasingly “lean in” to make change happen. We need to be bolder and believe in the value of the work we are contributing, and in turn, demand that our rate of pay should be reflective of this, regardless of the hours that we work.

Perhaps it is a worry of being perceived as a feminist by looking to beat our own drum, which often has negative connotations in the workplace?

Finally, I welcome the imminent arrival of the “self-shaming” exercise which will require firms with more than 250 employees to report their gender pay statistics on their website.

However, I feel that until legislation extends beyond monitoring and there are punitive and investigation powers, then the gender pay gap is unlikely to be equalised in my daughter’s lifetime.

Stephanie Robinson is founding director of HR/employment law specialists Solve