The Gender Pay Gap: the solution is simple right?

This week the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA; the government body that is tasked with improve gender equity in the workplace) announced that the nation’s gender pay gap had barely budged over the past 6 months and remains at around 14%. You can read the full fact sheet here.


As usual the common commentary about how the gender pay gap is a myth, that it can’t possibly exist because it’s illegal to pay women and men differently for the same work, that it’s because women choose to work in lower paying roles yada yada yada.


The fact is that fixing the gender pay gap sounds deceptively simple. Just pay men and women the same for the same work right?!? Well yeah, that’s a good start, but the gender pay gap is a hideously complex issue with very few quick fixes available.


The first thing to note is that there are two distinct pay gaps that WGEA asks organisations to measure and both have their distinct challenges.


THE LIKE-FOR-LIKE GAP


As the name suggests, this gap assesses whether men and women in the same job roles are being paid equally. And if you do happen to find a gap, all you have to do is just give the woman more money and the problem is solved! Simple right??

Sadly it really isn’t that simple. There is so much complexity within organisations that finding true like-for-like comparisons can be hard.


I worked in a law firm and with such a clear hierarchical structure you’d think it would be easy to simply compare male ‘Lawyers’ with female ‘Lawyers’ or male ‘Associates’ with female ‘Associates’. But consider, some Lawyers & Associates:

  • manage offices while some don’t;

  • have 3 years’ experience, some have 15;

  • manage teams of 5 people, some manage teams of 40 and some manage none; and

  • work in niche areas of law while some work in more common areas of law.