How to argue with a gender pay gap denier (and not lose your cool)

'Hello? 1958 called, they want their opinion back'

You’ll find one in every group of friends or extended family. An outwardly reasonable person who calmly asserts that the gender pay gap is a myth.

Similar to the ‘when’s international men’s day?’ folk, a pay gap denier (PGD) is most likely to show their true colours during moments of progress. Like last week’s deadline for all companies with over 250 employees to reveal their gender pay gaps, which felt like a broad step in the right direction, but also prompted a lot of huffing from the PGDs that ‘women work fewer hours’, ‘women take maternity leave’ and ‘women simply aren’t as good – so sue me, PC brigade!’

Because it’s difficult to keep a cool head when you encounter a PGD in real life, perhaps while sitting in the pub with friends on an otherwise pleasant Saturday afternoon, or during brunch with a cousin you haven’t seen in a while, here’s a clear set of responses to have in your back pocket…

They say: ‘Men earn more because they work longer hours’

You say: ‘No, men earn more than women for working the same hours. As this summary shows, women in full time work are paid 9.1% less than men.’

They say: ‘Women don’t ask for a pay rise’

You say: ‘The suggestion that women don’t get pay rises simply because they don’t ask for them has been disproved. Women do ask, they’re just more likely to have their request refused. A study by the University of Warwick showed men are 25% more likely to get a pay rise when they ask for one.

 

They say: ‘The figures look worse than they are because there aren’t as many female executives.’

You say: ‘But the picture also gets worse for women who do make it to the top. In the UK, female managers earn 27% less than their male counterparts – on average that amounts to £12 000 a year – and male CEO bonuses are six times larger than those earned by female CEOs. So depressingly, even in a 50:50 boardroom the male execs would be likely to get a bigger slice of the pie.’

They say: ‘Women take time off for maternity leave’

You say: ‘Do you think women should be financially penalised for the (fairly essential) process of continuing the human race, or should women of childbearing age simply not work at all? Either way, it’s not a good look – and ultimately terrible for the economy when you write off half the workforce because of their ovaries. Also, it’s worth bearing in mind that the babies being born who you object to so strongly will one day work and pay taxes that will help fund your retirement, or even care for you in old age. And please stop calling maternity leave time off, it’s not a 6 month jolly around South America.’

They say: ‘Women just aren’t as committed to work once they have a family’

You say: ‘There is no evidence that women are less ambitious than men, but they do bear the brunt of childcare responsibilities – something which won’t change without men’s help – while many also face discrimination from their employer that they don’t feel they have the money or energy to fight. As the organisation Pregnant Then Screwed points out, a staggering 54,000 women lose their jobs after getting pregnant. 

So more often than not a woman’s supposed ‘lack of commitment’ to her job is decided by her employer. Add a lack of flexible working conditions and some of the highest childcare costs in Europe into the mix and you’ve got a pretty hostile environment.’

They say: ‘The pay gap figures revealed by companies are too simplistic to really prove anything’

You say: ‘But requiring companies to reveal their total gender pay gap is surely a step in the right direction, isn’t it? You might argue, for example, that Easyjet’s 52% pay gap is swung by the number of male pilots rather than a breakdown of like-for-like pay. But don’t you think we should be asking why women feel discouraged from becoming pilots in the first place? Or we could just do what you’re doing: shoot down any attempts at actual progress and carry on as we are, which happens to suit half the population rather well…’

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