Kate Andrews of the Institute of Economic Affairs spoke to students yesterday, urging female students in particular not to believe the ‘victimhood politics’ represented by the gender pay gap issue – of which she describes as a ‘myth’.
The generally accepted figure for the gender pay gap is 9.4 percent between men and women.
In her talk, titled ‘Is the Gender Pay Gap a Myth?’, Andrews fought back against claims that women were being paid less simply because they were women, and put a gap in earnings down to the different choices women make in terms of how much they work – particularly when motherhood comes into play.
Andrews also disputed the claims of charities, research organisations and institutions such as the IFS and CMI, whom she claims misleadingly represent statistical calculations to claim that women are being paid less.
“My assumption as an economist is that it can’t be true”, Andrews told a large audience of students.
“Overt gender discrimination is not possible, or profitable.”
Giving the example of recent ONS statistics, Andrews argued that their methodology, which enabled them to conclude women were being paid less, was flawed. The ONS stats combined full-time and part-time employment figures; in doing this, says Andrews, women are misrepresented and inevitably come out worse, as more women in the workforce work part-time than men.
If statistical and research bodies simply used part-time working figures to analyse salaries, women are actually more likely to be earning more if they work part-time than men, she stated.
The situation was suggested to be similar with recent IFS statistics. The IFS stated that women earned on average, 18 percent less than men. However, their methodology involved combining part-time salaries to the potential salary that could be earned if a woman worked full-time. Again, Andrews says this is not representative, and could be used to claim anyone was being paid less – not just women. Women, again, are just working fewer hours.
Andrews did however recognise that women still had some way to go to achieve full equality with men.
“Today, in 2017 society, men and women are not equal…I think that’s important to flag up.”
For many women, however, Andrews claimed that motherhood was the dominant priority, as well as different lifestyle choices in general that mean women tend to work less hours than men.
Where some claim that women are conditioned to bear the burden of motherhood more than men, Andrews pointed to studies in Sweden that suggested that even when men were given more paternity and parental leave, women still chose to take more time off than men.
“It’s an easy way to get the government to legislate “feel-good” laws”
The regular Sky News pundit also suggested that contrary to widespread belief, women were entering the sciences and engineering roles more than ever before. It is the fact that women are in 2017 more educated than ever before that could even be another factor for a supposed pay gap, claimed Andrews. She invoked a ‘timeline’ theory that claims it will take a while for women to catch up financially due to simply not being in the workforce on a mass scale for as long as men have.
Audience members were quick to bring up the issue of the lack of women in top managerial positions – of which just one third are made up by women – and FTSE 100 roles. Andrews retaliated, however, that studies suggest women are promoted quicker than men and get higher compensation for overtime. Infact, she claimed, if following the exact same career path, women were likely to do slightly better than men
The pay gap is “an easy way to get the government to legislate “feel-good” laws, to show everyone they’re doing something about gender issues”, said Andrews.
That does not mean, however, that the issues exist. She urged female students not to buy into the narrative of constantly being discriminated against.
“The politics of victimhood is a lucrative one.”