Christina Hendricks on why the gender pay gap is as outdated as Mad Men

Gender balance We love the tongue in cheek swipe at the gender pay gap in this video of Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks. Showing off her antiquated secretarial skills in a modern office, she demonstrates how far technology and working practices have come since the 1960s. The rub is how women’s wages have stagnated over the same time period.

The latest figures suggest the average full-time pay gap between UK men and women is at its narrowest, 9.4% since comparative records began in 1997 (17.4%). Minister for Women and Equalities and Business, Jo Swinson, said in The Independent: “It’s great the gender pay gap has reduced. We have extended the right to request flexible working and are introducing shared parental leave and tax free childcare from this year!’

However, as the UK fell in global equality stakes last year, we cannot be complacent. The announcement of a less elevated gap is good news but still not equal. Pass on the video to a friend- you know we still have work to do!

Due after April 5, 2015? How female breadwinners can take advantage of shared parental leave

Shared Parental LeaveOne of our Female Breadwinner readers, Lily Donaldson, helped write a guide on Shared Parental Leave (SPL) after she missed out on the benefits afforded parents having a child after April 5 of this year. In her article it explains: ‘Until now, partners were entitled to two weeks of standard paternity leave, and while additional paternity leave of 26 weeks was also available, only one in 50 used the additional leave. With the introduction of SPL couples will now be able to share 52 weeks of leave between them when they have a baby or adopt.’

This is a boon for female breadwinners in particular as mothers can share their allowance with their partners and return to work more quickly. Before, mums had to wait until 20 weeks after the child was born before passing on some leave to her partner. SP Fathers will still be able to take two weeks of paternity leave straight after the child is born that won’t count towards your SPL entitlement. However, additional paternity leave has been replaced by SPL. Let’s watch this space to see if this enables men to feel they can take more leave…and for employers to understand that families are just raised by mothers.

D & I – Deadly Sin: Focusing on valuing women’s difference from men

man and woman's differencesDeadly Sin: Women and men are indeed different; but they actually have much more in common than we like to recognise. We focus on gender difference because it’s sexy, it gets headlines – ‘it helps me understand why she’ll always be the Venus to my Mars’. To this point, forward thinking companies spearhead programmes to help male managers appreciate traditionally ‘female skills’ such as listening and collaboration. This is easy and convenient as it offers a rationalisation as to why all the women gravitate towards Marketing and HR and all the men into Operational and Technical roles.

Truth Time: Just because we encourage people to value difference doesn’t mean they will. The modern workplace still rewards the determined individual who saves the day over the team player who ensures mistakes aren’t made in the first place. Unless your company has ways of measuring and rewarding those who facilitate group cohesion; ‘an invisible job’ routinely performed by women – valuing difference will continue to channel women into roles with limited C-suite access and reinforce increasingly dated stereotypes.


Americans now view higher expectations for women, not work/life balance as main barrier to success

Women in leadershipAccording to a recent poll of over 1800 American adults by Pew Research Centre, most Americans now find women indistinguishable from men on key leadership traits such as intelligence and capacity for innovation, with many saying they’re stronger than men in terms of being compassionate and organized leaders. While that’s a sign of progress, what’s most interesting is instead of blaming that old chestnut of ‘work/life balance issues’, the highest proportion (about four-in-ten Americans) point to a double standard for women seeking to climb to the highest levels of either politics or business, where they have to do more than their male counterparts to prove themselves. Recognition of this double standard is a big shift and a much needed turning point. It’s perhaps not surprising about two-thirds (65%) of women say their gender faces at least some discrimination in society today, compared with 48% of men who believe women face some discrimination, but it’s promising that nearly half of men agree. Historically, it’s been convenient to blame women’s reproductive choices for the lack of progress. This research suggests that if both women and men understand the system is biased enables us to make inroads into this issue.

Women and even feminine-faced men assumed to be poor negotiators

make yourself heardWomen’s reticence to negotiate is often blamed for part of the gender pay gap, with naysayers claiming ‘you get what you ask for’. Yet more research shows that stereotypes about women who do attempt to negotiate are often a bigger part of the problem. The journal of Organisational Behaviour and Human Decision Processes reported that people of both genders were more likely to want to negotiate against women -and even men who had feminine facial features.

This implies women, and even men who look like them, are poor negotiators and therefore more appealing adversaries. The researchers at Cornell University found ‘people were systematically more aggressive to feminine featured faces – they were more demanding and would send in offers that compromised less.  The only upside for women? Become a good negotiator and you’ll surprise the other side of the table – who expect less from you.

Families move house for his job, not hers – down to job choice?

Convenience of locationIt’s been long recognised that families are more willing to move when his job dictates than hers. Traditionally, theories as to why this happens include gender roles which dictate that a man’s job is more important than his female partners or the fact that men on average have had greater earning potential – so families simply follow the money. However, a new University of Minnesota study by Alan Benson published in Demography suggests a 3rd reason may be the root cause – men are more likely to pick jobs that require presence in a sector-relevant location; women pick jobs that are less ‘geographically clustered’. Male dominated sectors such as engineering or oil and gas are based in certain hubs whereas teachers, administrators and healthcare workers are in demand everywhere. But why are women drawn to ‘geographically dispersed’ jobs? Early expectations may play a big part. If people assume that families will put a male breadwinner’s job first, it makes sense for women to be drawn towards fields that give them mobility.

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