Should women and men be paid equally?

I live in a household with a serious gender pay gap. Even when I was in a full-time salaried post, my wife (who is a GP) was earning a multiple of my income working part-time. The reason for this is not, of course, any kind of bizarre reverse-gender discrimination, but simply that she is doing a job which had been judged to be of more (economic? social?) value than mine. There have been two different stories about gender pay gap in the last couple of weeks, and though they have become entwined, they relate to quite distinct issues.

The first is the reporting of companies that have a greater than 15% ‘gender pay gap’, measured as the average pay for male employees compared with the average pay for female employees. On many of the media reports, this was presented under the category of clear injustice, but if you listened closely you might have noticed that reports included an explanation of the reason: that in these businesses, the men are often doing jobs which are paid more, rather than being paid more for the jobs that they do. This is especially the case in businesses that include something technical, and airlines are typical in this regard.

Women’s hourly pay rates are 52% lower than men’s at Easyjet. On average, women earn 15% less per hour at Ladbrokes and 33% less at Virgin Money. At Easyjet, for example, 6% of its UK pilots are women – a role which pays £92,400 a year on average – whereas 69% of lower-paid cabin crew are women, with an average annual salary of £24,800.

In terms of equality legislation, there are no issues here, since ‘all three firms say men and women are paid equally when in the same role’ as indeed they must by law. There is an issue, but it is not that women are paid less than men for doing the same work—and I would even venture that the phrase ‘women earn less than men per hour’ is misleading for the ordinary listener or reader. Each of these companies is taking action about the disparity, for example encouraging more female applicants to work as pilots. But it is rarely noted that ‘equality’ in this context can only be achieved on the assumption that men and women have no difference in aptitude or interest in different occupations, or that any differences they have are entirely the product of social conditioning, and not at all related to biological differences. You don’t have to believe that men are from Mars, and women are from Venus, to think that this is not a plausible conjecture.

In the context of paying people on a meritocratic basis, the issue just behind the headlines is the question of parental leave for raising children. Whichever parent takes the career break is going to have less experience and a thinner professional CV, and so will have to earn less in a non-discriminatory system. This has been acknowledged  in Sweden (and other Scandinavian countries), and the proactive encouragements for fathers to take the career break have been frequently lauded. But what is less often noted is the net outcome, even in a context where men have preferential incentives for parenting:

Swedish mothers still take more time off with children — almost four times as much. And some who thought they wanted their men to help raise baby now find themselves coveting more time at home.

If mothers want to spend more time with their children, and that appears to have a biological basis that resists ideological shaping, and under a meritocratic system this will naturally lead to lower pay, how should we respond to the reported ‘gender pay gap’?


The second story was the resignation of Carrie Gracie as the BBC’s China editor in the light of what she called ‘illegal’ ‘discrimination’ given that she is paid only £135,000 per year, much less than some male employees of the BBC, notably John Humphrys who earns in excess of £600,000. This was in the context of the earlier disclosure of BBC reporters’ pay, which showed that the top male presenters earned a good deal more than the top female presenters—though the information was incomplete. Many who work in the media do not work as employees, but as freelance contractors, so that their pay is negotiated on an individual basis.

There are immediately a few things to clarify here. First, Gracie has not (to my knowledge) resigned from her job at the BBC or lost her salary; she has dropped an editorial responsibility, and in fact is in the process of moving over to a Radio 4 role. Secondly, her treatment by the BBC is neither illegal nor discrimination, at least not in the usual meaning of that term. If it was, she could quite easily take them to tribunal and they would not have a leg to stand on. I am not even sure whether her status is as an employee or contractor. In fact, pay differences affect people within and not just across the gender divide. Andrew Graystone, who has long media experience, reported on Twitter:

Many companies struggle with issues of pay equality for all sorts of legitimate reasons. What do you do if two roles have equal value (in terms of what they contribute to the business) but for one of them you have many applicants but the other is hard to fill? When I worked at Mars in Slough, which had an emphasis on transparency, one solution was to promote commodities traders to high management levels in order to pay them more. That retains equality in pay grades, but of course messes up the organisational structure.

The complexity of issue and the apparent simplicity of Gracie’s claim led Melanie Phillips to challenge the story in the strongest terms, describing it as an example of ‘idiocy and intimidation’:

What crisis of trust? What law-breaking? She may have legitimate cause to complain about any specific undertakings the BBC may have made to her and then broken. But her general point is untenable. It confuses equality with identical outcomes.

There is a specific issue in the media to address, but also a wider issue to consider relating to gender difference. The specific issue is whether two correspondents ever do the same job. Nick Robinson used to be the political editor, and when he left Laura Kuenssberg succeeded him. In theory, she is doing the same job—but I confess to having really liked listening to Nick, but I do not like listening to Laura. I don’t like her style or analysis or way of interviewing, and her voice is not nearly as easy to listen to. The job Nick was doing was not simply being political editor, it was Being Nick Robinson the political editor. Laura Kuenssberg is not doing the same job; she is doing a new job called Being Laura Kuenssberg the political editor. Different correspondents will have difference followings and popularity even if they are in the same place in the organisation—which is why so many work as contractors rather than as employees.


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But there is a wider issue relating to how difference works in large populations. Let’s take something fairly neutral, such as height. In the UK the average height of women is around 5′ 4″, and the average height of men is around 5′ 10″. That six inch difference might sound a lot but it is only 8.5% of the average male height, and in many mixed groups it is not all that noticeable. But move only two inches from the male average, and see what happens. If you had a random group of 1,000 people who were six feet tall, how many of them would be men, and how many women? Statistically, you would have 999 men and 1 woman. Although you are only a small distance from the average male height, you have moved a long way from the average female height, and on the normal distribution (or ‘bell curve’) you are a long way down the tail. (The same would be true in reverse with a group of small people.)

This happens whenever you do two things: aggregate; and specialise. When you group people together, and allow them to specialise along the lines of their interests, small differences in the overall group lead to massive differences in specialisation. Men only need to be a little more interested (for example) in computers and coding to create a situation where 95% of those with a special interest in editing Wikipedia are men. The same is true in sports. Black men only need to be a little (perhaps 1–2%) more athletic in some way to lead to their dominant presence in a sports specialism—and it would be very odd indeed to suppose that the historic gene pools of black and white should be identical.

Imagine an alien visitor chancing upon a basketball arena on a wintry night. It sees a curious sight: most of the faces of the extended tree trunks scampering around the court are black; the crowd, on the other hand, is almost all white. This alien would see much the same racial division at football games, boxing matches, and at track meets and running races around the world. Even in sports in which blacks are not a majority—baseball, soccer, rugby, cricket, even bobsledding in some countries—blacks are represented in greater number than their share of the population.

Aggregation and specialisation are the hallmarks of our interconnected world, and they are especially evident in the media. There is clear evidence that men’s deeper voices are perceived to be more serious and objective and so preferred in news broadcasting, but women’s voices are more soothing and preferred in other contexts. This is not merely a product of cultural conditioning (though that no doubt plays a part); it appears as though men’s and women’s different pitch of voice are actually processed in different parts of our brains as listeners.

In this context, relative small ‘binaries’ in gender difference become very pronounced binaries in specialist groups. That is why it is not uncommon to find many interest groups which are largely single gender on an entirely voluntarist basis.


There is no question that women and men must be paid equally for work of equal value. Neither is there any question that we should challenge lazy and disempowering gender stereotypes. But eliminating stereotypes does not mean eliminating difference; the question then is how we handle this difference both between and within genders.

The aggregation and specialisation noted above is what gets Carrie Gracie her £135,000 pay cheque in the first place. Why on earth should a journalist get paid so much in relation to a nurse or a carer? Are they ‘worth’ this? Only in the kind of competitive, specialised market catering to an aggregated audience. That is not to say that unconscious bias is not present in the system in which she works—but that large parts of what leads to the perceived inequality are the very things that lead to her exorbitant salary in the first place. It is not simply that she should be paid the £600,000 that John Humphrys gets: they should be paid more equally, and a good deal less. And the first will not happen without the second.

Women and men will be paid equally when women-and-men are paid more equally—that is, when there are not the enormous disparities in pay across all sectors. It is indeed questionable whether ‘equality’ is the right terminology at all; we would do much better by talking about pay justice. And in a just world, I am not sure any journalist would be earning £135,000.


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35 thoughts on “Should women and men be paid equally?

  1. Interesting thoughts Ian. In a previous life, as a software developer I know I got paid very differently to others who were doing the same job as me. In some cases my salary compared favourably, many times it didn’t. I used to work alongside contractors doing the same job as me (in some cases, less well) who were earning six-figure salaries. Few companies I think have ever implemented ‘same job, same pay’ successfully.

    I read an interesting point the other day – if men and women are truly equal, surely we shouldn’t be looking at who gets paid more on average but rather simply looking at the worth of the particular individual.

    Maybe a good baby step would be for the Church of England to actually pay a living wage to its clergy? …

  2. Would you go as far as to say “The gender pay gap is a myth“? Or would you prefer that the phrase was simply clarified more in reporting; acknowledging that there is a pay gap, but that it is not indicative of institutional bias?

    I agree with your summary here, and I think one of the difficulties with this conversation, as you acknowledge, is that pay equality is usually (and misleadingly) grouped together with a lot of social commentary on the choices people make, or are ‘expected’ to make, thus phrases like ‘Gender pay gap” become media short-hand for many perceived injustices that are not always causally connected.

  3. This highlights really well several of what I’d consider to be the main points.

    Biology and childbirth.

    Which types of jobs are applied for in the first place – and also whether they are flexible-hours, part-time etc. – are central factors that will inevitably have an effect.

    Pushiness getting better rewarded than gratitude. Yet I know which personality-type I would prefer on my staff.

    Difference between being paid less *relatively* and being paid ‘too little’ in an *absolute* sense.

    Being, in broad terms, among top 5% of world’s wealth (and top 1% historically) simply by virtue of residing in UK – and yet pay-levels figuring at top of reasons that people go on marches.

    Journalists – yes. I must tread carefully here. Maybe a journalist can be a great human being. WT Stead. GK Chesterton. Neville Cardus. But someone starting from where I am starting scratches their head over the adulation paid to (random examples) Christopher Hitchens, Joan Bakewell, John Humphreys, Jon Snow – some of whose thinking (or at least on my specialist topics) is lazy in the extreme. Journalists are the least trusted profession, consistently, and not without reason – but one does not read that in the newspapers.

    Lack of equality at top end (black athleticism, 6-footers).

    This is one of those topics that comes up periodically, without any sign that the points made in previous discussion have been remembered! So summaries like this are useful, and may need to be re-posted.

  4. Brave article!

    All very valid points of course. But very much contrary to the prevailing feminist and postmodern narrative.

    A related issue is the increasing use of quotas in order to try artificially to compensate for disparities in the number of men and women in a field, and likewise their ‘power’. As though we should expect women and men to have equal average everything, and any deviation from that must be a moral and social problem to be addressed. This pernicious (and anti-meritocratic) ideology of ‘gender balance’ is fast gaining ground in the church.

    Of course a missing element of this discussion is the fact that to avoid population (and cultural) decline each woman needs to have on average (just over) two children. This basic social and demographic fact often seems to be lost sight of in discussions about sex, fertility, family and choice.

    A final interesting aside (since as conservatives we’re obviously obsessed with sex): it’s interesting to see how equality in the home correlates with frequency of sex:
    ‘Husbands who do little or no housework had sex with their wives nearly two more times pe’r month than did husbands who do all of it. Meanwhile, doing a greater share of traditionally male work around the house—mowing the lawn, fixing things—correlates with more sex. Men and women are not attracted to sameness, but to difference.’ (https://www.firstthings.com/article/2017/10/the-death-of-eros)

    • Will, I agree with you on quotas and also find the last para telling. The common denominator is probably accord or discord with reality. In my view we ought not to give stage 2-3 feminism or many aspects of postmodernism a nod or acknowledgement, as though they have centre stage. They would have to earn centre stage by virtue of making sense. If even their opponents put them centre stage, that gives them the oxygen of publicity.

      • But they do have centre stage……

        Postmodernism and ‘3rd-wave’ Feminism are the prevailing cultural narratives, and they should be openly challenged and resisted.

  5. To have centre stage because of the machinations and string-pulling of those with vested interests is one thing. There is more than one centre stage, and the intellectual / market-place-of-ideas one is of more worth than the social one, the reasons for whose priorities we can guess at (but they need not be coherent). So, to clarify my plea: people need to recognise the relative value of these 2 stages.

    • It is essential that people understand what Cathy Newman’s agenda is.

      See ‘Is Evangelical Theology Abusive?’ Psephizo 9.2.17, comments 3, 106, 107, 108.

      • Cathy Newman’s ‘agenda’ was to expose Smythe as an abuser. Some of his victims are very grateful that she did.

        • Hi Penelope.

          All contributors will see that your answer is astonishing in that it implies I am not on her side in that particular matter.

          The points I made on those 4 comments were:

          1. She claimed (in an earlier ed. of Dispatches, I think) to have been thrown out of a mosque when in fact she had just gone to the wrong entrance. Why? Because ”fundamentalists” ”must” always be doing bad things, even when we have not taken the trouble to understand what they are actually doing.

          2. On Autumn 2016 Dispatches: She pursued the quiet-minded, peaceable Jusztyna from Good Counsel Network outside the Rosslyn Road Abortion Killinic, East Twickenham, down the street – for doing what?

          3. She asked Jusztyna, who sacrifices many hours to support these babies rather than take a regular job, how much she got paid for doing so. It would certainly be a pittance compared to CN’s own salary!!

          4. If Jusztyna wants only one thing, to stand against the killing of human babies and try and prevent that as well as helping the mums, CN thinks that makes her a bad person (!) so bad in fact as to be exposed on TV. How does that work?

          5. If Jusztyna hands out literature saying there is a link between breast cancer and abortion, then that is only because:

          A. 2 of 3 meta-analyses say so,

          B. three quarters of the 70+ studies say there’s a correlation, even after they have been adjusted;

          C. the correlation is particularly stark in India where other potential explanatory risk-factors are
          absent ;

          D. it is unlikely in the extreme that you could artificially mess with such a delicate and intricate process )child developing in womb and pre-lactation) and leave the women’s bodies just as good and healthy as they were before;

          E. she is in a position to cite chapter and verse whereas CN cited none! She cited and talked to one professor whom I name on the thread. This professor did not mention a single piece of chapter and verse, a single study, either. She just made dogmatic generalisations.

          F. The question is often posed in the terms ‘Is there proof?’. If there is a strong correlation and also overlap of subject-matter between the 2 correlated things, then what do sensible people do?

          G. Why has breast cancer shot up since the sexual revolution? Jusztyna cites researchers who have a coherent explanation. Please note that the revolutionaries not only reject the abortion link but quite openly have no alternative explanation. But the likeliest available explanation would be our best working hypothesis, and through all these years they have not cited a likelier one.

          So Cathy Newman did not research the topic, just said that Jusztyna ought not to be making the link!!! Why? – because facing up to research makes people uncomfortable?

          H. Re Smyth, she persisted with the Welby link because many journalists equate the Church with the C of E which they know is relatively malleable and weak – the image they want to portray.

          I. She persisted with it because bringing down the Abp of C would be a nail in the coffin of those nasty Christians who persist in saying there is truth, right and wrong.

          J. But what are the facts? She kept saying David Fletcher and Mark Ruston were Welby’s ”friends”. She knew perfectly well, but played down, the fact that they were an entire generation older than him, within an already authoritarian organisation, and that he at the relevant time was 19-20 years of age, a student among leaders.

          K. She claimed to think it was highly suspicious that Welby did not immediately drop all his UK friends, even expunge them from his address book, when he went to a job in France. What?

          This sort of thing is what I mean by her agenda. She has targets, namely moral and good Christian people. How very unpleasant to target such people. But they make her feel guilty (they do not do this actively, but she feels convicted, I am hypothesising) so she must target them.

          The elements of this agenda A-K ought to be what Penelope and others focus on. Smyth’s abuse was obviously dreadful as all agree.

  6. I found the arguing at the BBC about ‘equal rather an insular one for those who are supposed to map the world and report on it. A small number of people complaining that in their rich-world bubble things were not fair. (Other insulated and isolated bubbles are available)

    Not a hint that they are utterly out of step with the majority of people outside the bubble or how they could be ‘worth’ hundreds of thousands of pounds.. It’s not so long ago that they were reporting and pointing at others using the ‘pigs at the trough’ terminology.

    ‘Equality’ is nearly always an argument for more money for oneself. It’s not often a desire for a pay cut.

    It’s also interesting (I’m not sure of the best word) that it makes a big headline because it’s about rich people feeling hard done by.

  7. Once again, thank you. The issue is muli facetted.
    Here is an interview by Cathy Newman of Jordan Peterson, clinical psychologist and atheist. It is a rat tat tat style of interview, with standard push back from Newman, with little real attempt at evaluation of the answers given, moving on, preventing a full answer, in the manner of today. Robust on both sides.

    https://youtu.be/aMcjxSThD54

    • Thanks for the link. It was a car crash of an interview – more an inquisition than an interview as she demonstrated little knowledge of clinical psychology and seemed interested only in pigeon-holing him as a ‘bigot’, ‘transphobe’ etc. As Douglas Murray put it in his comment, she exhibited the “trademark sourness she employs for everyone she expects to disagree with’ and was seeking “to burnish her social justice credentials and expose her guest as a bigot’.
      She was unable to grasp the distinction he was drawing between equality of opportunity (which he affirmed) and a politically engineered equality of outcome, which he denounced as a bad goal.
      Yet this is what politics driven by the culturally Marxist agenda is definitely aiming at.

  8. Apologies. Didn’t mean to repeat. Should have read the comments first, but I viewed the interview first, following a referral from another site, then posted without looking at comments, havindg read Ian’s blog earlier in the day.
    I agree with Andy above.
    There is much on the internet by, and on Peterson, with some vile and hostile LGBT hounding (putting it mildy). His response to Newman on views on this stumped Newman into silence.

  9. For those saying journalists are overpaid possibly true it’s a lot compared to many other jobs / professions.. Remember that Carrie Gracie was offered more money but turned it down. She was aware her salary was good but the inequity and secrecy of others doing the same/similar jobs was the issue. Something systemic and about principle rather than ‘ I want lots more money’

    • It’s a catch-22, I guess. People will never equalise by dropping the salaries of some, so the only way in which equalisation takes place is by raising the salaries of others, deserved or not. This drives inflation, so that in real terms there will be no increase at all in terms of what you can purchase.

      • It actually drives inequality overall because you pay the ‘best’ (actually the most in demand) what you have to to attract and retain them, and the rest demand equality which if you honour it you do by raising their pay. But this is only for elite professions and positions – for the mass of people, pay is set by what employers can get away with (and the minimum wage). And with employers having to fund extortionate pay for their elite workers this only places greater pressure on the pay of their ordinary workers. The overall effect is to further inflate the pay of elite positions at the expense of junior and low skilled positions, increasing social inequality.

  10. Ian,
    A lot to think about and comment on here, but let me start with the quotation re Sweden. I moved long before I had kids but at least I can read some Swedish to clarify a bit.

    1) Yes, ‘Swedish mothers still take more time off with children — almost four times as much.’ It was 4 times in 2010. In 2016 it was 3 times as much (26% men) and the fraction of days taken by men increases slowly but steadily.
    (Also worth noting: 26% is >4 months per child. Many mothers take less in the UK)

    2) ‘And some who thought they wanted their men to help raise baby now find themselves coveting more time at home.’ That comes from a 2001 survey. Could still be true, I really don’t know.
    What I do know is that any man or woman should covet more time at home. Anyone that gets the chance to spends some (payed) time with their kids in the wonderful (and very demanding) early years and doesn’t do it, is a fool. I really regret not taking unpaid leave when the kids were young. Fortunately I have worked from home during most of their childhood, so I still got to see them a lot.

    • Thanks Per, that’s very interesting. I would entirely agree with you about both parents wanting to spend more time at home. I am very grateful that I have always worked from home or close to home, so have been able to have that privilege.

      The thing which is driving parents away from children at home is the economic pressure in a system which also generates high salaries and high differentials. So I think there a similar thing applies: in the system as a whole, we will need to accept a lower income if we want more equal incomes. That actually means a similar standard of living since house prices are driven by incomes—but only if we all do it together.

      But do you think there are any biological reasons why women might still choose to spend time with children more than men, even in an economically equal context?

      • ‘I would entirely agree with you about both parents wanting to spend more time at home.’

        Be interested in any data on this. I would have expected many men (I don’t know how many) to be happy to get out of the house while children are young and leave most of the childcare to their wife. Certainly shared parental leave hasn’t had a huge take up (yet). But I’d be really interested to know of any data which indicates the relative prevalence of these attitudes.

        • I think that always the answer is found by consulting what the healthier cultures actually do.

          First, being healthy they have extended families and grandparents who are actively involved as part of the family unit. (NOT as replacements for real parents who cannot be bothered, as in the film Baghban etc..)

          Second, they have highly intelligent and articulate mums (and dads) who may actively wish to bring up young children full time. The present economy is biased against that, though.

          When people claim they want the best for their children, that best is not to have them in a nursery from a very young age with loads of other children, because their one-to-one time is:
          (a) drastically reduced,
          (b) not with their own kin.

          Healthy cultures are strong in both kin and heritage.

          As for nannying, you are foregoing your own child’s care, but you are only making some unrelated person do exactly the same thing instead. So the *number* of people doing the childcare does not reduce a bit. It just means that
          (a) you have to fork out for it,
          (b) the person doing it is not related to the child.
          Both a and b are steps backwards.

        • Will,
          You may be right about many fathers not wanting to be at home. I just think that this is a decision they will live to regret. Also, the low uptake will partly be driven by things like expectations from family, friends and, importantly, employer, and financial concerns.

  11. Ian,
    There might well be differences. I would expect that, for example, the strong bond that can form through breastfeeding can’t really be replicated by a man. From what I can see in Sweden (anecdotally) the mother tends to take the first part of the parental leave (after the first 10 days when both are home) and the father the latter part.

  12. btw, I certainly agree that to make family life easier for most, many of us may have to do with a bit less. We have been spoilt by a sustained period where things were always getting better for everyone. Now, when things aren’s so rosy, making sure that my children will have it as good or better than me may be at the expense of children from a poorer background (as Andrew Wilson explained this week,
    http://thinktheology.co.uk/blog/article/inequality_privilege_and_the_upper_middle_class )

  13. Ian,
    Getting back to the main discussion, I think there is one issue that may be as important as genetics and sex. Salaries are not given just based on scarcity, experience and ability (could take a cheap shot at John Humphrys here, but I will just say: “John, time to retire… please”). This assumes a ‘perfect market’, or in any case that the imperfections average out in the big picture. Two reasons why it might not be so:

    1) We tend to favour people that are like us. This has been shown in situations from playground behaviour to recruitment, encompassing all sorts of factors, even ‘invisible’ ones like having a similar political opinion. As most people making decisions regarding recruitment, promotion and salaries are white middle class men, it doesn’t hurt to be one, if you want a higher salary. Knowing your boss socially, having gone to the same school, university, etc. doesn’t hurt either. This doesn’t mean that all white middle class men get huge salaries, but on average, probably a bit more than other demographics for dong exactly the same thing. Personally, I have had to realise, that if I think two persons perform equally, I’m probably biased, and the one that i least like me may be doing the better job.

    2) What we reward tend to be what we can measure, which is the performance on the current job, not the one they will be promoted to. This is the reason for the Peter principle (sounds Biblical, but I think he was a management theorist) “managers rise to the level of their incompetence”. If there are typical male and female traits, and I suspect there are, ‘climbing the ladder’ in a company may require the more male attributes: task-focussed, not easily distracted, working hard at the expense of family and social life, etc., while leading a department or company successfully may well need more ‘female traits’: multi-tasking, communication, negotiation. These types of contributions may also be harder to measure.

    So, in both these aspects we could tend to favour men over women, for the same contribution to the organisation. Not saying sex is the biggest factor. Class, educational background, race and culture could all have as big or larger impact. Still, it’s a thought.

    • Hi Per

      Don’t forget that women earn more than men in their 20s: https://www.theguardian.com/money/2015/aug/29/women-in-20s-earn-more-men-same-age-study-finds

      It’s when family kicks in that male earnings begin to exceed female. A major reason is that women’s priorities change as they start a family – as they should of course. It seems to me that big questions our society needs to address are why many more women than men are going to university and why women are earning more than men until they settle down to start a family – is our society favouring women’s education and aspiration in some way?

      I’m not sure where you’re going with your explanations for the causes of pay disparity, but I wouldn’t have thought we should regard women taking on a greater role in child rearing and in the home and men taking on more of a breadwinner role as a social or moral problem. Indeed, if we care about children, women, men and the future of our society (which depends on sustaining a birth rate of at least 2.1 children per woman) we should surely be eager to support it.

      • Will,

        Sorry for a late reply

        Interesting, I hadn’t seen that. It indicates that you may well be right, and taking time off for children is the key factor. It would be interesting to see if it goes beyond just a ‘lag’ because of time lost.

        I don’t see it as a moral problem that women stay at home to spend more time with their children. However, do iI interpret you right in that you think it is a good thing that fathers spend increasing time at work?

        I see the amount of time that parents (especially fathers) spend away from their children as a societal problem. Long working hours brought about by financial pressure, long commutes caused by lack of housing close to jobs, and the ‘always on’ culture, where emails and mobiles are allowed to disrupt family life, lead to many fathers hardly seeing their kids awake during the week. For me, a balanced family life where both fathers and mothers participate actively in their children’s upbringing is surely something we as a society should aim for?

    • Hi Per,

      Just a thought or two…

      You state: “As most people making decisions regarding recruitment, promotion and salaries are white middle class men, it doesn’t hurt to be one…” Perhaps, but isn’t that just an advantage naturally conferred to the member of any majority culture? In China, I’m sure it helps to be Chinese, or in Nigeria, Nigerian. I know for sure that here in Finland, where I now live, it’s of absolutely no advantage being white and middle-class. I’m convinced language ability is more important, especially for foreigners.

      “Personally, I have had to realise, that if I think two persons perform equally, I’m probably biased, and the one that i least like me may be doing the better job.” Why would you think necessarily think that? Surely there’s no evidence that merely reversing your perceived biases will necessarily lead you to the correct conclusion? Maybe I’m misunderstanding you here?

      I also don’t see how in your second point, these are particularly male or female attributes. I’m probably somewhat skewed in my reasoning here as I have adult ADHD, but are you suggesting women are more easily distracted than men? And are you suggesting that multi-tasking is a female trait (and that it’s actually a positive thing anyway)? Multi-tasking of the category that involves putting the coffee in the cup while the kettle boils is ok, but trying to brush your teeth while you do your shoe laces up, not so much. In other words, the simpler the process and the more related and dependant on each other the sub-processes are, the more chance we have of it being successful. But the kinds of processes we encounter in our every day work are not of that kind. They’re complex and deserve specific attention before moving onto the next. I’m labouring the point, sorry. I just think multi-tasking is ineffective and its advantages exaggerated.

      Finally, how does one lead a department, without first climbing a ladder? Helicoptering people into management roles is surely subject to failure? Poor anecdotal evidence warning:

      Out of necessity (because of my difficulties in grasping the Finnish language) I have made a return to the trade of my earlier years, which is landscape gardening. I’ve noticed some interesting things. I work for the local Parks Department, in the lowest of the low position, and I see partly why the hierarchy is the way it is. In the office, men seem to take up the upper Management and supervisory roles and women the lower supervisory and garden design roles. Out in the field, the women do the bulk of the lighter daily maintenance work and the men do the heavy grafting of paving, stone work, digging etc. Now this may seem sexist to some, but I see there’s biology at play. Women, in general, are not as strong as men and are therefore generally less able (and hence less willing) to do the really hard, callous on your hands, back breaking work. This in turn means they lack an intrinsic knowledge of what is required to carry out a large scale job (of course there are exceptions to all this). Extensive, on the job experience is critical in decision-making, and so it goes to reason that it’s men, who may have the required experience, qualifications and the necessary personal traits, that often get the nod over someone who has limited experience, even if they have equivalent qualifications and good personal traits.

      I don’t see that as sexism at all, or inequality. That’s merely a consequence of various limiting factors at play. For my own situation, I have equal (or more) experience than virtually all the employees there, including the management staff, both in years and in quality and I definitely have more qualifications. And yet, even though I’m white, middle-class and a male, I receive by far the lowest wage there. I could be tempted to feel oppressed but I know it’s actually just a function of my personal limitations and inabilities in key areas, not someone else’s discrimination. I’m never going to learn the language well enough to climb any ladders or to reach a management or professional position, like in my previous life in Australia, but I’m content that God has provided me with work, such as it is, and when I’m there, I make sure I work my butt off. In the end it’s all God’s providence anyway… 🙂

      • Hi Simon,

        Sorry for the late reply.

        You are right, of course it is being of the majority culture, or maybe the culture that holds the majority of the power.

        What I mean about bias, is that if I think that too people perform equally, that is my perception, which will have some amount of bias in it, and so I will try to correct for that (not over-correct). Impossible to make things absolutely fair, as much of it is subjective of course, but just good to be aware of that it is easy to interpret things more positively for someone that is similar to yourself.

        There is some evidence that the multi-tasking capability of women is better than men. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-24645100 .) I agree that multi tasking is not very efficient (also a result of the study), but I think there are many jobs where it cannot be avoided. Management, at least in my experience, is such a role. Personally I am bad at multi-tasking, and when I at times have had management positions, I have been stressed by many concurrent demands. I’m much happier when I can focus on one thing at a time, in an expert role. I admire the managers I know (both men and women) who can keep a large number of balls in the air, being able to quickly respond to whatever issue pops up.

        In my area (another warning for anecdotal evidence, in a very specific area 🙂 ) I find that the best scientists seldom make good managers, and actually many of them do not want to be managers, as it bores or stresses them. I have found the best managers to be those that have spent enough time on the ground (= in the lab or behind the computer) to actually understand what is going on, but who have an understanding of people and a vision for their department. They want to manage not for the power, but for the challenge and out of interest in people, and they understand that many of the people who report to them actually know more than they do, without feeling insecure about that (i.e. they are being grown-up about things).

        Companies have had to start making some adjustments to make this work in the long run: rewarding people in expert roles as highly as managers, selecting people not based on their performance in the expert roles but on their interpersonal skills, communication skills, understanding of the wider strategy, etc, etc. Don’t really if this has anything to do with men vs women, most managers I know are men, but there is a new generation coming…

        As you said, we have to be grateful for God’s provision wherever He puts us.

        Good luck with the Finnish, I really think it must be the hardest language on earth 🙂

        • Hi Per,

          No need for apologies. Fair enough, is all I can say. I do agree with one thing in particular, and which my earlier comment may have overlooked. Some of the best managers are indeed those who are perhaps NOT experts in their field. Those who are may be prone to micro-managing – and that’s not good either.

          Thanks for the good wishes. Finland is great, but for a 50 year old, it’s language has proven almost totally opaque, no matter how many state sponsored courses they’ve put me on.

          Best wishes. 🙂

  14. And a final comment to say… Well Played John Humphrys!
    (and Sorry about my joke earlier 🙂

    He may not be my preferred style of journalist, but the solidarity they showed not just with female colleagues, but especially with the BBC, and the understanding of what his salary looks like to most people was very welcome.

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