Category Archives: blog

Blog posts related to the WAF Project

Flexible working and Gender Equality

Flexible working and gender equality : What we need to do to meet gender diversity and performance enhancing targets at the same time Across the world, there is a new awareness of gender inequalities with an increasing demand to tackle this issue. In the UK, in 2018 the government set up new requirements for large companies to publish their gender pay gap. Not only has this raised awareness of the extent to which women are paid less, it has also led to many looking hard to find solutions.

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Return of the 1950s housewife? How to stop coronavirus lockdown reinforcing sexist gender roles

shurkin_son/Shutterstock

Heejung Chung, University of Kent

As the COVID-19 virus spreads across the world, many governments have shut down schools, nurseries and other care providers. With more and more people working from home, it is likely that many families will find themselves in a situation where both parents are trying to work from the kitchen table while also attempting to home-school the children.

This, on top of the regular household chores as well as cooking and cleaning can feel like an extra load for many parents at this time. The likelihood is though that despite both parents now being at home, much of the “domestic” work will still land squarely on the shoulders of the women of the house. So much like the 1950s housewife, women will not only be expected to make exciting meals, keep the house clean and tidy and the children entertained – but she’ll also have to do all this while working from home.

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Why the gender pay gap is an enduring challenge for many organisations

In April of 2018, large companies with over 250 employees were obliged to report their gender pay gap for the first time. Headlines that week were dominated by some of the surprise and shock of the extent to which women were paid less in majority of the companies reported, while for many women it just confirmed our hidden beliefs. There was a slight optimism, however, that there can only be progress. However, many companies who are reporting their new pay gap for this year show that rather than progress, many have increased their gaps. Why is this the case?

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Flexible working can reinforce gender stereotypes

Flexible working is becoming a must for many. One recent report found a quarter of UK workers have refused a job due to a lack of flexibility. This number jumps to 40% for millennial workers for whom work-life balance and flexible working is key when evaluating a job prospect.

Many hope that flexible working can help tackle the persistent gender pay gap. This is why the UK government announced a review of the right to flexible working in 2019 and the prime minister, Theresa May, said firms should strive to make it a reality for all staff, while urging companies to ensure women are better represented at senior levels. But my work with Tanja van der Lippe into the reality of how flexible working plays out shows that it can end up reinforcing gender stereotypes if cultural norms go unchecked.

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Flexible working stigma must end to ensure better use of flexible working

Research from Yougov shows that the majority of workers want to have some sort of flexibility in their work, with more than half wanting to deviate away from the traditional 9 to 5 routine. It has also been shown that just under half of workers are already working flexibly one way or another.

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This is why all jobs should be advertised as flexible

Flexible working for family reasons should be celebrated.
via shutterstock.com

 

Why flexible working is key if shared parental leave is to have a lasting impact on the gender pay gap

Heejung Chung, University of Kent

All large companies in the UK have been rushing to report their gender pay gap by an April 5 deadline, when new rules came into force to tackle the stubborn gap between the salaries of men and women.

Motherhood is a key reason why this gender pay gap persists. Many women leave the labour market or move into part-time jobs after giving birth, which has a knock-on effect on their pay. This is partly due to conservative views regarding the division of labour in the UK, where most mothers take on the bulk of childcare and housework. Even when mothers choose to maintain their careers after childbirth, there can be an inherent bias towards them due to societal perceptions that they will prioritise their family over their work.

The best way to solve this problem is to ensure that fathers, or partners, are made to take on as much of a role in childcare as mothers. One way to do this is to give them the opportunity to spend time with their new-born babies, as well as to provide them with the opportunity to be more hands on later in the child’s life.

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Women Aren’t Paid Less Because They Have More Flexible Jobs

They work in low-paying jobs because they have no other choice.

A recent study shows that the global gender pay gap has increased to 32 percent, and projects that at this rate, women will have to wait another 217 years for the pay gap to close. It’s not just your own gender, but the gender makeup of your workplace that predicts your wages. Workers in female-dominated workplaces have been shown to be paid less than other workers. An industry’s pay level even starts to decrease when women take over a male-dominated field.

Some argue that the low pay for women is justified by the fact that ‘women’s work’ is generally less strenuous/hazardless work compared to men’s work, and that, in exchange for lower wages, they have better working conditions—especially those that allow a better work-life balance. Some well-meaning scholars argue that women sometimes forego higher pay to have that flexibility in their jobs—an argument sometimes extended to suggest that women voluntarily “choose” lower paying jobs to facilitate their “life choices”—read: to take care of children.

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Want more women in top positions? Provide them with more flexibility at work

Heejung Chung, University of Kent

The recent BBC report on the pay of its top earners laid bare the disparities between men and women’s earnings. But it should come as no surprise. The gender pay gap has been stubbornly stagnant over the past decade. According to the EU (which calculates the gap based on hourly pay differences between men and women), men earn around 20% more. And the UK’s official statistics group, which calculates the pay gap of full-time earnings, men earn an average of about 10% more than women.

One core reason for this difference is the tendency for women to drop out of the labour market or move into (bad and low-paid) part-time jobs after having children. Employment data makes this clear.

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