Closing the pay gap from both ends

Monday 21 July 2014

The gender pay gap could be closed significantly if more women were encouraged to take up apprenticeships in traditional “male” sectors such as building, engineering and computing.  

So said the think-tank Demos in the Independent on Sunday.

I want to see these male sectors opened up to young women but I also want to see the roles that many women choose to undertake being valued more highly.

By all means encourage more women to enter science and constructing – these sectors would be strengthened by having a more representative workforce – but why accept in the process that careers in health & social care and childcare should be poorly paid? According to Demos there is a pay-gap of £8,400.

Hopefully, few would argue that jobs in these traditionally female sectors aren’t also important and increasing their pay would also serve to close the pay gap. That in turn would bring other benefits too, for example making it economically viable for more men to share childcare responsibilities.   

Our own research shows not only that women are being pigeonholed into certain sectors at a young age but that there are fewer apprenticeships available in these sectors, further limiting opportunities for young women.

Demos are absolutely right to say that we need to challenge outdated perceptions of work roles. However, we need to recognise the people – mainly women – who nurse the sick, care for the elderly and look after the very young. They bring skill and commitment to these vital roles.

Let’s also value what they do.