The Devil’s Advocate, serving you a cocktail of humour, wit and sarcasm
When I heard about the gender pay gap in Australia, (according to Workplace Gender Equality Agency, for 2017-18 it is 16.2%), I flew into a rage. WTF! Why are women getting paid less than men? Are we still living in the Stone Age? Women have voting rights, for crying out loud! Thankfully, there is no gender pay gap in my profession, which is completely dominated by men (just like some women-dominated professions). There is no blood on my hands.
I then did a bit of research and analysed mountains of data on this subject and I have come up with a few recommendations, to right the wrong.
A couple of facts have been conveniently ignored though. One, as per the 2015-16 Australian Taxation Office data, there are at least 80 professions in which women earn more than men—female models for instance earn 75% more than men. Two, the women-dominated professions have been completely ignored, because the current flavour of the month is the “insidious male domination of labour market”
Here are my Royal Commission-like recommendations:
1. Cut men’s pay
For some mysterious or ludicrous reason, men get paid more than women. Businesses love to throw money at men and peanuts at women. Equal pay for equal work has been law in Australia since 1969. Why are companies flouting this law? This gravy train must stop and men should take their snouts out of the trough. Men should take a pay cut and bring the wages on par. If this is done, gender pay gap will vanish overnight. This is not a frivolous recommendation. This is already happening at the BBC. In January 2018, six men at the BBC, Huw Edwards, Nicky Campbell, John Humphrys, Jon Sopel, Nick Robinson and Jeremy Vine accepted reduced wages. The bean counters in companies are sleeping at their wheels and should wake up.
2. Women should go after HBLRDD jobs
What are HBLRDD jobs? These are jobs that are Hard, Back-breaking, entail Long hours, Risky, Dirty and Dangerous—miners, electricians, plumbers, welders, and mechanics fit the bill. These jobs pay good wages. Hasn’t every one of us experienced paying an electrician $80 just to knock on the front door? Men typically go after these high-paying jobs. If there is a quick quid to be made in a war-torn country, a man packs up his bags and leaves pronto. The majority of the FIFO (Fly in, Fly out) workers are men who endure HBLRDD conditions to make good money. They make a killing but get killed too, in the process. Around 95% of the workplace deaths involve men. Women should break into these male-dominated professions and go chasing after the whiff of money.
Why should a woman be working as a checkout chick in a supermarket for $20 per hour, if she could be making $120 per hour on a FIFO job as a welder?
3. Review the Pay Gap Calculation Formula
Do you know how the pay gap is calculated? It is quite crude. It is calculated by dividing the median earnings of full-time, year-round, working women by the median earnings of full-time, year-round, working men.
Just to explain this, let’s consider a sample of 100 working men and 100 working women. In the worst case scenario, if all men work as FIFO workers ($120/hr) and all women as receptionists ($20/hour), the gender pay gap is $100/hr. This is rather simplistic.
So, the gender pay gap is not because women are getting paid less but because not enough women are in the workforce and not in high-paying HBLRDD jobs? The formula just looks at the total wages earned by men and women and does not take into account the industry, experience, education, hours worked and other factors that determine how people are paid. So, to reduce the pay gap more number of women should enter the workforce and work in male-dominated HBLRDD jobs.
When Serena Williams and Roger Federer win their respective grand slam tennis title, they both get equal amount of prize money but Serena’s earning rate is higher than Federer’s because she has to play only 3 sets whereas Roger has to sweat it out through 5 sets for the same amount. Is this a wage gap for men, in spite of gender equality?
4. The “baby bump”
Women, by evolution or by God’s design, labour (pun intended) under the responsibility of procreation to keep the human race in existence. This is the final proof that God is indeed a man, for having subjugated women into this situation. Women start life with this “baby bump” handicap which is a road bump in their professional career roadmap. Pregnancy and child birth get in the way of a woman climbing the corporate ladder.
Not all women want to be mothers. This is fine, understandable, should be respected and supported by society. For such women, there should be no hurdles in their way to achieving their career ambitions since they are on equal footing with men and should have no grievances against men or society. Even if 50% of women in the world do not want to be mothers, the human race will survive and will be the better for it, with lesser population.
For other women, who’d like to mix up career and motherhood, there are options such as surrogacy or adoption. Surrogacy enables the woman to outsource pregnancy, labour pains and child care, which will enable the woman’s continuity in her career without any career- debilitating breaks. Adoption is another viable option. Even Angelina Jolie has famously adopted many children.
Motherhood can also be put on ice too—literally. Ovum freezing is a growing trend among the truly passionate career-minded women who freeze their eggs for later convenient time usage. Motherhood can thus be postponed until necessary or if required.
It must be said that children cost money. A 2013 national study found that a typical middle income family would spend about $812,000 on raising two children from birth to age 24, in Australia, which can be potentially saved, if children are kept out of the equation.
Reproduction responsibility is one area that prevents a true gender equality from being achieved between men and women, with the woman handed the dirty end of the stick. To rectify this, research in “womb/uterus implantation” in men should be initiated so that men too can share in the child-carrying chore of a woman. The animal kingdom has many examples of species that have both male and sex organs in them as well as the capacity for a male to turn into a female when required. We can learn from the animal kingdom in our quest to arriving at a gender equality society
5. Gender Quota
Gender quota is a quick, easy and lazy fix for the issue. If gender quota is introduced in the two most sought-after jobs by women—CEOs and politicians—the hoarse cries of the feminists can be finally silenced, at least. This may still not close the pay gap, though, because the total number of CEO and politician jobs potentially available for women will be less than 300 for the whole country. Australia can have only one female Prime Minister.
But true gender equality cannot be achieved until and unless, gender quotas are also extended to the HBLRDD jobs and female-dominated professions eg nursing, child care. Men should be physically forced out of their male-dominated professions and into the female-dominated professions until 50:50 participation rate is achieved in all professions.
At the moment, gender pay gap does not exist in the female-dominated professions because there are no male pay references to compare with.
6. Encourage “House Husbands”
The world is witnessing a rising trend in the phenomenon known as the “House Husbands”. These are men who stay at home and look after the household chores while the missus brings home the roti. The time has now arrived when the role of man can be switched from hunter to gatherer. The male participation in workforce in Australia has fallen by 10% between 1978 and 2018. Women’s workforce participation has increased by 17% for the same period.
Women are capable of swinging their machete through the corporate jungle much better than most men. The most famous house husband of India, writer Chetan Bhagat of “Three Idiots” fame, has become an inspiration to many men. If more men become house husbands, more job opportunities will be made available for women which would then lead to gender equality & equal pay. The “house husband” men, for a change, can now get some time to improve their golfing skills, learn pottery, write a book (like Chetan Bhagat), dabble in nude painting, watch cricket and Bollywood, play video games, do bird watching, surfing etc. This is a win-win outcome for men and women.
Uber drivers may hold the answer to the gender pay gap issue. Uber drivers work in a ‘gig economy’ in which equal opportunities are provided to both men and women, there is no discrimination of any type, equal wages for both, flexible working hours and all things are fair and equal. In short, a gender equality Utopia. But in spite of these “fair & square” conditions, female drivers earn less than men.
A team of researchers from Stanford University, University of Chicago and Uber has found three reasons for this anomaly. First, men tend to drive more hours than women. Second, men tend to drive in more lucrative places and at more lucrative times than women, such as early morning trips to an airport or night time bar pickups. Third, men drove faster than women, thus completing more trips and earning more money.
In spite of these recommendations, I have a sinking feeling that when the “Nordic Gender Equality Paradox” beast strikes, all the carefully-laid out plans will fall down in a heap, like a house of cards.
As per the Paradox, the more “equal” the society, the greater the tendency of men and women to gravitate towards traditional gender roles. In Scandinavian countries such as Netherlands and Sweden that empower women with generous welfare, gender quotas, social security, 480 days of paid parental leave etc, the number of women in STEM & CEO positions is still low. After decades of gender equality experimentation and programs, in these Scandinavian countries, of 145 big Nordic companies, only 3% have female CEOs. Women largely work in part-time positions; 62% of the women who work part-time don’t even have children at home. They work part-time because they have other priorities in their lives—their relationships, friends, outside interests. Is the gender pay gap here to stay?
Let me wax philosophical. I’m a fan of the “minions”, those cheeky b******s in the Despicable Me movies. The only purpose in life, for these minions, is to serve an evil master. They are prepared to go to any corner of the world to find evil, to worship and slave for.
Former PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi has said that for the last 40 years, she has done “nothing but wake up at 4 am and work 18-20 hours a day” for the organisation.
Are we like the minions, clamouring to serve the evil master—the greedy corporation?
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.