Reports that it is are misleading. Here, Jessica Abrahams chats to three women who still face very real penaltiesby Jessica Abrahams / January 17, 2017 / Leave a comment
Several years ago, I was asked to give a careers talk at my old school to a group of students aged between 16 and 18, to give them a sense of what it’s like to be a journalist and the usual routes into the industry. When questions were invited at the end, one girl raised her hand and asked about the problems of balancing the demands of work and family life. I wrinkled my nose—“Aren’t you a bit young to be worrying about that?” was my first thought. These were, after all, GCSE and A-Level students. But it showed just how early career-minded women start to think about this issue.
Recently, a report was published by the think tank Resolution Foundation suggesting that the gender pay gap for women in their 20s has shrunk to just 5 per cent—half the difference experienced by their mothers. The gap is often difficult to agree on due to differences in calculations but the report was widely received as good news, and many newspapers declared the pay gap to have virtually disappeared for women of the millennial generation.
Yet the report suggested only that the gap is close to being closed for the youngest group of workers—there is no evidence to suggest that this will remain the case as those workers grow older. It is not surprising that the gap should be narrowest for the youngest employees—before the effects of uneven promotions, bonus payments and family life have taken their toll—and the report’s authors point out that it begins to widen significantly from the age of 30 onwards. Millennials are already experiencing a pay gap of 9 per cent by the time they hit 30, almost double the average of those slightly younger than them, according to the report. By the age of 40, the gap has reached 25 per cent, resulting in a “lifetime earnings penalty” for women of all generations.
There are many reasons for this but the authors point to “the old challenges associated with having children” as one of them. Much has been written about the “motherhood penalty” and “fatherhood bonus”—the statistics that show that having children has a negative impact on a woman’s earning potential but a positive impact on a man’s, the result of a combination of factors including straightforward…