Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Gender, pay and jobs

I found this an interesting article. If I have understood the issues correctly, women are on average lower paid than men. It appears that this isn't primarily due to women being paid less to do the same jobs as men (which is illegal, but probably still happens); it's because there are more men in higher paid jobs and professions.

One factor identified in the report is the predominance of women in 'caring' professions and the question as to whether the education system still biases girls in that direction. That's interesting from the point of view of a University which mainly trains teachers and nurses. Experience would suggest that if we tried to have gender-balanced cohorts on our professional training courses, we would have to turn a lot of female applicants away. Should we do that, or do we train those who apply, regardless of the balance? Equality and Diversity work has been done on eliminating bias from our recruitment, but you can only achieve so much at the point people are considering applications. In other words, are we reinforcing the situation, and what viable alternative is there to accepting the gender profile of those who apply?

A second thought is this. It is often said that 'feminine' characteristics are things like networking, a willingness to talk about feelings, etc. If certain careers and professions value those qualities highly (and the 'caring professions' do) isn't it inevitable that there will be a gender bias, if it is true that 'feminine' qualities are more frequently found in women than men?

Tricky territory. Maybe the real problem is that jobs that require 'masculine' strengths are overvalued and overpaid, compared with those that require the 'feminine'. Pay caring professions what they deserve and the discrepancy diminishes.

Still a thought in progress, so comments welcome.

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