Pay gaps only one sign of how little employers understand family values

Women's impact in the workplace goes far beyond the office, it affects to our entire society, says Billy MacInnes
Image: via Pexels

9 February 2023

Is it possible for something to be interesting and disappointing at the same time? There’s no reason why not, I suppose. To use an example from music, I imagine it’s a bit like the feeling Led Zeppelin fans had listening to Houses of the Holy after Led Zeppelin IV or Arctic Monkey fans on hearing Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino for the first time.

The thing is, though, they had the benefit of surprising people’s expectations. I’m not sure the same can be said for the recent survey of 500 women by HR Buddy which reported 19% experienced sexual harassment in the workplace and 40% faced unequal treatment due to their gender. Only 40% said their workplace provided equal opportunities for women and men.

Three-quarters of women felt they were more likely to be subject to unfair criticism than male counterparts and 60% believed they were more likely to experience micro-aggression.




Reflecting widespread dissatisfaction with how employers were tackling discrimination, 90% said organisations needed to take more action to support women in the workplace. The paucity of measures was also shown in the nearly three-quarters who said their workplace had not invested in training and education to tackle gender-based discrimination.

Commenting on the results, HR Buddy CEO and co-founder Damien McCarthy said: “The feedback from women in the workplace today continues to go beyond unequal pay as a form of discrimination with sexism, family status, childcare and negative impacts on promotion and career progression opportunities being highlighted as some of the other main reasons why women feel they are being continually discriminated against.”

Disappointment inevitable

The findings are unlikely to shock anyone. Which is disappointing in itself. Neither will it be surprising to many of us that family status and childcare still feature so strongly when it comes to factors that have negative effects on promotion and career progression for women. Disappointing, obviously, but not surprising.

You would hope that some corrective could be put in place to try and mitigate the effects of family status and childcare on a woman’s career progression, the question is what? Clearly, the system as it is cannot be described as fair for women in a work context.

There are some men who might feel a measure of envy that women are entitled to extended time off work through maternity leave but how many of those men would swap places if they could, knowing the effects it will have on their career progression and future earning potential?

On the other hand, the system essentially has built in inequality against women because of their role as mothers. That might be defensible if women gained recognition and reward from society and the state to redress that inequality but the fact is they don’t.

Time spent on maternity leave and away from a career to rear children is often detrimental to most women’s career progression but it is of immense value to society and the state. A value that, I would suggest, far surpasses the monetary value a woman gives up in her career progression to assume those childrearing duties.

Until the disparity in value between what a woman contributes to society through childcare and what she loses at work in doing so is recognised and – more importantly – paid for, the system will always be unequal and women will always be penalised for doing what society expects them to do. It’s not surprising women are meeting those expectations, it’s disappointing that society is not.

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