The Gender Pay Gap

November 15, 2015

Jennifer Lawrence made waves earlier this month after recently publishing an essay entitled ‘Why do I earn less than my male co-stars?’ The 25-year-old was referring to last summer’s Sony Hack, where leaked emails detailed how she and co-star Amy Adams were paid less than their male co-stars for American Hustle.

J-Law joins an extensive list of exasperated actresses who have, in recent months, articulated their own take on the misogyny of the entertainment industry. Most notably was Patricia Arquette, who u-turned her Oscars acceptance speech earlier this year into a platform to address the gender pay gap, in turn receiving a standing ovation from Hollywood royalty and a ‘you go girl’ air punch from Meryl Streep. So what does the gender pay gap mean to us mere mortals who don’t grace the silver screen, and where does it begin?

Whether we like it or not, society still harbor rigid ideas about both men and women’s preferences and capabilities, and these stereotypes contribute to women, being bundled into lower grade jobs with the poorest pay. Subconscious gender stereotyping begins at birth, with the relentless ‘pinkification’ of baby clothes and toys. I learnt this the hard way as a five year-old, where despite my open adoration for Thomas the Tank Engine, Malibu Barbie was still thrust into my hand every Christmas (complete with beach house and jeep.) Such omnipotent, insidious messaging about children’s interests and abilities mean that by the time that they’re 14 and faced with the crucial decision of whether to take Textiles or Woodwork, their own assumptions about gender and work are already set in stone. This significantly contributes to the shortage of young women studying ‘blue’ subjects such as maths and physics.

Of those women that do venture off the ‘natural path’ and enter the blue workforce, even fewer go on to work in well-paid jobs such as IT and engineering. Many of the women that do make it along the andric channel to the labor market later leave. Sometimes this is because they find out they are being paid less than their male colleagues – female graduates earn up to 28% less than their male counterparts do (even if they studied the same degree). In other cases, they might be continually overlooked for promotion, they are not able to work flexibly once having children or they have felt the bite of a wholly male-oriented culture.

Back in July, David Cameron introduced new legislation that will require larger organisations to publish their gender pay gap figure. A momentous moment for females across Britain, it’s now 45 years since the Equal Pay Act was announced to defeat the gender pay gap. Whilst the publication of pay gaps alone will probably not amount to Cameron’s vision to end the gender pay gap within a generation, it is still a step (albeit a small one), to addressing the injustice that women, both in Britain and globally face in the workplace every day.

Earlier this year we heard that young women, (yet again), outperformed young men at both GCSE and A-level. We know that women now graduate in higher numbers and with better grades, yet women entering a professional job can still expect to be paid less because of their sex. The Guardian has recently commented that ‘The Gender Pay Gap will cost a woman in Britain on average more than £100,000 over the course of her working life.’ As astounding as this figure is, it does not just cost her; it is a cost to women’s families, to businesses and to Britain as a whole for the waste of talent, it indicates. So whilst Jennifer Lawrence (a millionaire negotiating for more millions) might not be relatable, it is a great way to get the conversation started.

Read Lawrence’s full essay here: