Why should I, a man, care about the Gender Wage Gap?

If you enjoy this article please comment and follow me on Twitter @maddadskillz or Facebook or Instagram.  Illustration credit to @paulcarlonillustration

I am approaching the end of 100 days of Shared Parental Leave. Normally I am a helicopter pilot, but recently I have been a housekeeper and full time carer for my son (4) and my daughter (10 months).

Returning to work after Shared Parental Leave

I’m about to return to work and I’m sad.

I’m about to transition from 100 days of spending 12hrs a day exclusively with and thinking about my children to spending, at best, 3hrs a day in their presence.

We will shift from leisurely breakfasts followed by messy play to shoveling a cereal down them and dropping them at nursery the minute it opens in order to commute to work on time.

Goodbye mid-afternoon library or swimming trips. So long soft play sessions. Instead we will only have 6pm-8pm each evening, during which my wife and I need to feed, bathe and run the bedtime routine.

Forget duvet days and cuddling on the sofa in front of Kung Fu Panda. That’s 90mins out of my 3hr day. That would be 50% of my available daily parenting time dedicated to Po!

Work Options?

What if I could go back to work part-time?  Or maybe reduce my hours a bit, take the hit in pay, but at least pick them up from nursery before 6pm?

What if I could just decide I don’t want to go back to work at all? My kids need me, right? They need my attention, my love. They need me to influence their experiences at this critical stage of development.

Well I guess I could but, even if my wife and I thought that one of us quitting work and staying home with the kids was the right solution, we’d be pretty tight financially and it would almost certainly have to be my wife who quits. Not because she is more “parental” than me, we both have equal drive to be with the kids. The truth is that I bring home more money and, as a family of four, we need every penny we can get.

I believe this parenting conundrum has just been given a name, “The Fatherhood Penalty” by Dad Blogger John Adams and the charity Working Families.

The Gender Wage Gap

My wife, despite having twice as many degrees as me, both to a considerably higher standard, working as many hours as I do and working as hard as me, still makes £13,000 less.

I’m the man. I’m blessed with the advantageous side of the wage gap (in most cases). I’m the bread winner. It’s my role to go out and bring home the money for my family, leave her to be the primary parent, right?

But wouldn’t it be excellent to, at least, have the choice?

This is why the Gender Wage Gap is something we should ALL care about. Because I’m selfish and I have a desire to parent my kids too.

Equality benefits us all. It makes the most options available to the most people.

Eliminating the wage gap and increasing equality is not something that solely benefits women. It makes our relationships stronger, it gives us all more choice, it makes us all better parents.

But aren’t Gender Wage Gap statistics inflated?

I appreciate that we have Equal Pay enshrined in law in the UK already and that the Wage Gap statistics can be exaggerated by two factors:

A) Women (3 in 7) tend to work part-time more than men (1 in 7). Part-time not only pays less overall but less “per hour” as well.

B) There is still a perception of “womanly jobs” (lower paid) and “manly jobs” (higher paid).

With regards to women working part-time I’d dare say that this becomes cyclic. Based on only my own anecdotal evidence it seems more mothers than fathers reduce their hours after having kids and this leads to more female part time employees which skews to a lower average income. Is it usually the mother reducing her hours because she is on a lower salary to begin with?

According this BBC article, if we look solely at full-time employees then the gap shrinks. Shrinks, not disappears.

I don’t have an answer for combating Womanly versus Manly jobs except that it begins with us parents enabling our children to view professions and careers on their individual merit and not their stereotypes.

Shared Parental Balance

Good parenting is all about balance. Balancing what rule infractions to let slide and which to discipline. Balancing rigidity of routine against letting the child have fun.

Wage equality and Shared Parental Leave allows both mother and father to best balance their ambition in the work place with their ambition to be good parents.

Interested in how big the wage gap is in your industry? Take a look at this graphic from the National Office of Statistics.

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If you enjoyed this article please comment and follow me on Twitter @maddadskillz or Facebook or Instagram.  Illustration credit to @paulcarlonillustration

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10 thoughts on “Why should I, a man, care about the Gender Wage Gap?

  1. Now this is a subject that gets me both passionate, excited and riled up. I’ve come to appreciate there is a pay gap….but it’s not gender based. When people talk of a gender pay gap, my response is this: WHICH gender pay gap? You mean the one that affects full time workers under the age of 29 (women out-earn men), Part time workers (women out-earn men) or the average over a lifetime (men out earn women)?

    Also, if a man does what I did and leaves a career to look after kids, they face all the same issues women generally do: lower earnings over a lifetime, greater chance of experiencing pensioner poverty etc.

    Politicians have done a great job of making this a black and white issue. It isn’t, it is shades of grey. It’s long-winded, but I always refer to it as a “carer pay gap that disproportionately affects women.”

    It’s no coincidence that above the age of 29, men – on average – tend to outearn women. That’s around the age most women start having children, after which the majority never quite return to the same status work or earn the same amount. As you say, it would benefit everyone to remedy the issues we have in this country but it’s not a simple issue of men earn more.

    We have good but exceedingly expensive childcare provision in the UK. Our shared parental leave system, although you have made the most of it, has replicated every single error made by the Swedes 40 years ago (it took them about that long to get the system up and working properly). We’re also dreadful at offering job shares and flexibility in the workplace and in my experience most employers don’t understand that technology enables most people to work from home with ease. The carer pay gaps needs addressing, but talk of a simple “gender pay gap” is too simplistic.

    I did warn you I was passionate on this subject!

    1. John, thank you so much for reading and your well informed response.
      I’ll take passion over ambivalence any day!
      I think you are right, to an extent. The issues you are facing, and I have become enlightened to as a result of SPL, are the issues facing any carer, male or female.
      Of course they are issues that have primarily been faced by females up to recently and that feeds expectations, pressures and work/home environments.

      I think it is important that, as more of us experience the “other side” that we can now acknowledge and empathise with these situations.
      Perhaps then, when SPL people like me return to work or people with a platform like you, we can address the issue as a penalty for parenting, not simply for mothers.
      I post from my own experience (and therefore limited and bias sample group) but every couple I know is made up of two professionals and yet there is not one where the man is the one who will be reducing hours or impacting their career to solve the childcare issues. Regardless of their personal desire.

    2. Great perspectives, thanks. John I agree with you that we should be more precise about which gender gap we’re talking about, because the solutions will differ. Pregnancy/childcare does appear to be a major ‘fork in the road’, hopefully things like SPL and other initiatives will provide opportunities to reduce this particular gaps, but you’re absolutely right that there’s still a ‘childcare penalty’ that will affect both men and women in the future. SPL’s not the magic bullet to these issues, but it hopefully it’ll help – way too early to tell of course!

      1. “Childcare penalty” point the finger rather directly, which is a good thing. Although I believe that it is something we men are becoming aware of more as we start to take on the SAHD or SPL roles. Women have been suffering the harsh end of this penalty for considerably longer.

  2. When I saw the title of your blog, my heart sank. Its not the sort of topic that normally lifts your heart when commenting on other blogs and i’m sorry but that’s just how it is on a wet Tuesday morning. However, I’m glad i did read it and have spent 10 mins over my allotted time going through your NOS graphic too as well as getting hot under the collar and preparing a twitter petition on this subject for Parliament to debate (again)! It seems that in your favour, if you were both working, a male childminder would save you a few pennies over the year. Considering John’s comment above about employers offering flexibility and allowing you to work from home, I imagine that manoeuvering a helicopter around your house might be just too much of a hazard for your home insurance to cover. Also from one cartoonist to another, good work. You deserve a Wow! jo #bigpinklink

    1. Well I’m glad I was able to suck you in for longer than usual.
      On the contrary my work is the ultimate in Flexible working hours. The Queen could call upon us at any time, day, night or weekend. We have to be remain completely flexible!

      I’m also glad you like the cartoon, its not me but my fantastically talented illustrator Mr. Paul Carlon, available on instagram https://www.instagram.com/paulcarlonillustration

  3. This is a brilliant thought provoking post and I absolutely love how much you want to be at home with your kids. I’d never thought about men having to work because they are higher paid when they might not want to. Thanks for popping by the #bigpinklink

    1. It sounds a bit silly doesn’t it?
      “Oh woe is me and all my money!”

      However I think its an important point. Just because people seem to be on the advantageous side of some divide, it doesn’t mean everything is perfect.

  4. It’s so wrong men have to work because of pay gaps fantastic thoughtful post Thanks for linking to the #THAT FRIDAY LINKY come back next week please

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