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Thursday, 24 February, 2000, 10:56 GMT
Female forfeit: Is it fair that women earn less?

Women will lose out on hundreds of thousands of pounds in income over a lifetime simply because of their sex, according to new research.

The study by the UK Government's Women's Unit reports that it's not just working mums who lose out, but even single childless women don't reap the same financial rewards as their male counterparts.

Are employers living in the past? What do you think should be done to even the keel? Or do you consider that men dedicate more time to their careers and deserve a higher income? Send us your views and experiences. HAVE YOUR SAY First, has anyone done a study on companies run by women, is there no pay discrepancy there? Second, men tend to be confrontational, for example, when I applied for my current position, the woman who hired me asked how much money I expected to receive. I gave her a figure and told her I wouldn't take less. She then consulted with someone higher and asked me when I could start work. The women I work with just accepted the first salary they were offered, it took them three years to reach the salary where I began. You are worth what you will accept.
George Mealor, United States of America

I do not see why there should be any discrimination at all in the workplace because of sex.

I do not see why there should be any discrimination at all in the workplace because of sex. It is high time that this sad and absolutely unfair practice ended. This seems more prevalent in the sports scene which is really bad since whatever glory the women bring to their teams or their country is compensated only according to how much popularity or how much money flow it brings to the team or the event.

Here we go, some chauvinism has to be let loose. Women are more trustworthy than men but they are poor managers therefore they are less at managerial levels and consequently when are earn less. I can understand the lower pay as natural incentive for women to stay home which also in my opinion is the right place for most women, not all of course. The absence of women from a home has distorted the societies and given children poorer childhood's and poorer readiness to become adults.
Mikko Toivonen, Finland

There is lies, damned lies and then there is statistics. Market forces are there to be played, if you settle for a lower wage then don't look for legislation to help you out. Get negotiating.
GB, Scotland

Same work, same results should mean same reward.

John, Austria
Jeff, get real. We are living in the 21st century, not the 18th. A woman's role is what she makes it and not what dinosaurs like you try to force it to be. It is time men like you learnt to deal with it. Women want to be in the workplace so it is up to you to change your Neanderthal ways.
Caroline, UK

The role of women in society has been eroded due to technological advances. I am a young man living on my own and I can perform all the work traditionally associated with women (cooking, cleaning etc.) using machines. I can (theoretically) earn enough money to pay someone to look after my children while I work. Maybe one day we can invent an artificial womb, and buy some eggs, then no-one would need women at all. Women today are taking on the role of men because being a housewife is no longer a full time job (it is certainly a lot easier than it used to be). Women today often have to work to feel useful, and I say good luck to them.
Ad, UK

Good luck to women who succeed in the workplace.

Gareth, UK
I am not in the habit of belittling women and do not intend to do so here. I genuinely feel that equality must happen for those who work on a comparable basis. However, the maternal nature of women must be considered the primary human function and the rearing of children is impossible if careers become the norm, as they are tending to do now. Good luck to women who succeed in the workplace. However, the welfare of children is not the priority it should be, particularly in the early years where children learn quickly from the stimulus around them, or, more specifically, respond negatively to the absence of at least one parent.
Gareth, UK

Men have been guilty of the heinous crime of sexism (not any better than racism)throughout recorded history. When will this wrong be righted? Then, the process of atonement and repentance may begin. When you consider another human to be less than you, they become victims of a lot of suffering, but you become less than human. All humans are equal in respect of their rights and responsibilities, in any aspect of life, whether it be at home or at work. A woman's ability to give birth and breast-feed a baby (should she wish to do so) does not increase her responsibilities without a proportionate increase in her rights, nor does it lessen the responsibilities of a man (at home or at work). Of course, there is no point in telling this to someone who has chosen to ignore the voice of their conscience.
Usman Khan, Pakistani in UK

My comment is also to Jeff USA who says that the women's place is in the home. Get real! Women of the 21st Century should have the same earning potential as their male colleagues. It is simply not moral to suggest anything different.
Louise, UK

People should be paid the amount of what they are worth to the job, no matter what their gender is.
Lau Gainpaulsingh, UK

For those of you who are bringing the issue of maternity leave into this debate, and saying that women have children as a 'lifestyle choice' which should not be funded by employers, I would like to point out one thing. Mothers, not fathers, are generally the ones who take time off to raise children, because mothers are the ones who earn less (and because good childcare is expensive). Saying that women are paid less because they take time off to have children is therefore putting the cart before the horse.
Laura, UK

What? Some people are still discriminated by sex? Now I see the benefits the Communists and their ideology brought to my country or at least its people's mentality.
Andrej, Russia

This question really is academic because a woman's place is in the home.

Jeff, USA
This question really is academic because a woman's place is in the home. The role of women should be to raise the children, not go out and work and leave the children in day-care. Staying at home and raising children is one of the most important contributions that can be made to society. It should be seen as a privilege and honour, not a burden. The feminist movement has betrayed women because it has made staying at home un-cool, it is trying to convince women that they should be like men and that has created many more problems than it has solved. Indeed, the fact that there are more and more women in the workplace means that men are seeing them as threatening and treating them even more like second- class citizens than before.
Jeff, USA

It is unbelievable that women still earn less than men. It proves that we still live in a male dominated society. If man had babies, they would make sure to earn a lot more than women, to make up for the periods in which they can't produce any income due to child rearing. The income gap is the biggest injustice done to women and there should be much more emphasis put on changing this situation. Women actually usually have to deal with a lot more work than men, as their male bosses like to task them with un-job related administrative tasks. It's a scandal!
Natascha, UK

We can't make assumptions that a woman should earn less just because there is a POSSIBILITY that they will have less time at work due to maternity leave!

Ilda, UK
I think the debate should consider whether we're talking about women on full time employment where they have an annual salary as opposed to women getting paid by the hour for the work that they do. Payment by the hour should be at the same rate as a man's if the work is exactly the same. Anything other than that is unjust and unfair. As for annual salary for a full time job, that should also be the same initially and then negotiated accordingly at the annual reviews if the woman in question wants time off to have a baby. We can't make assumptions that a woman should earn less just because there is a POSSIBILITY that they will have less time at work due to maternity leave!
Ilda, UK

Women should be paid less. Men are capable of working far harder. If you ask a woman to work harder chances are she'll start crying.
Mark Verth, UK

I think it would be interesting to see how male and female pay differs between different areas of the industry and indeed whether this discrimination occurs at admin. Level right up to management level.
Kevin Watkins, UK

Not only is it not fair (presuming it is unequal pay for identical work), it is counterproductive to achieving economic stability, especially for single mothers, or whatever the euphemism is for the week. Here we have individuals the sole providers for children who of necessity require and get relatively huge amounts of social offset cash to raise their spawn from the state. Yet they are not in a position to cover the bills on their own, whatever skills they may acquire, because of the pay differential. Seems like a loaded deck against if you ask me.
Walt O'Brien, USA

Of course it isn't fair that women earn less but is it fair that women should be able to take months off for maternity leave and still be paid?
Simon Mellie, UK

Life is filled with inequalities. No one will ever change that. Regulations won't solve the wage difference

Will N, VA, USA
Life is filled with inequalities. No one will ever change that. Regulations won't solve the wage difference. What you need is disclosure. If salary were public information (just as your tax returns are (in the US anyway) it could further help solve the problem. Managers/owners would think twice about pay differences if they knew that it is in plain view of their ever-questioning employees.
Will N, VA, USA

What are the average salaries of men and women in different jobs in this country? I have seen so many different figures on television and in the newspapers I don't know what to believe, I have no idea as to whether I am on a normal, below average or above average salary for some one of my age and qualifications.
Kate, UK

I agree that women should get equal pay for equal jobs. The difficulty is what is an equal job. The job description is not enough to define it, you also have to look at what the individual contributes. If the women are contributing more then they should be paid more, but typically men are more ambitious and aggressive in pursuing their career objectives and so are rewarded that bit more. I know of circumstances where women have successfully thrust themselves forward ahead of male colleagues and been rewarded for it.
Duncan, UK

The fact that there are less women in jobs with the opportunity to earn more money shows a bigger injustice.

Holly Marshall, England
The fact that there are less women in jobs with the opportunity to earn more money shows a bigger injustice. Women are not any less capable than men to do the jobs so why are the big money earning jobs dominated by men? We are meant to be living in a totally equal world and our government would say we are but the fact the government is also completely dominated by men shows this opinion to be biased. I am only 15 and don't want to have to work in this atmosphere
Holly Marshall, England

Women should be paid more than men, simply because they are more intelligent and can do tasks without being completely egotistical.
Mike King, UK

I fail to understand why some women feel that they have the right to expect employers and their colleagues to make allowances for them because they are women or because they have a family. It is grossly unfair that employers should be expected to pay any employee for their lifestyle choices (i.e. having children). If couples decide to have children then it is their responsibility to care for them. If this means one of the partners giving up work, or having a work break, then this must be their choice and they should not expect government to legislate to force employers to "make allowances" for them
Colin, England

Why does Cath Messum think women should be paid for having children? At the last count, there are more people living now than have lived in the entire history of the world. We are exhausting non-renewable resources and poisoning the world. We have countries where babies are raised in poverty or left to die because parents do not want or cannot afford to keep them. Being a responsible parent is one of the most important jobs in mankind. If a woman or man does not want to put this as their first priority when deciding whether or not to add to the world's population, they don't deserve to have children and certainly not to be paid for it.
Jenni, UK

Absolutely not. Women don't work as hard as men. They spend most of their time on the phone 'gabbing' to their friends, wasting time.

Hey Ron from the UK - how much do you value your own life mate? Not much by the looks of it. Having and caring for children is THE most important job there is. It can never be undervalued. I'd like to see how men would cope with it if they had kids - they wouldn't! Get a grip and wake up.
Loz, UK

Just because women can't pee standing up doesn't mean that they have less hours on the clock... or that they should be paid less.

Jessica Skinner, USA
There is a rate of pay for the job, gender is immaterial. However, it should be rigid equality, no special concessions for women in the workplace, (apart from toilets of course), no segregated areas, no special days off for "the wrong time of the month" or anything like that.
Steve Foley, England

At least women get to retire earlier than men, in most countries - certainly in the UK there's 5 years difference. That's 5 year's additional pension paid from 5 year's less work.
Barbarella, NL

The problem seems to be how we value people and their contribution to society. There should be no shame in describing oneself as a mother or a house-husband. But no matter how hard our society tries, it cannot seem to shake off the idea that if people do not go out to work in the morning and come home in the evening having earned a significant sum of money, they are second rate citizens.

As the world becomes more modernised, there are more and more women burdened with responsibility than men. Thus it's unfair women obtain less pay from their job.
Daphne, Taiwan

Wage discrepancies are simply male domination, and deserve to be trashed. In Canada a study just released confirms that over 70% of major companies employ no more than one woman in senior positions of spite of many qualified candidates. And informal networking seems to play a part in keeping women out. So maybe equal pay should combine with equal access to the bastions of networking in Britain and Canada.BR>J.J. Avery, Canada

No, it is not fair that women earn less than men. Is it fair that women earn less than women? There are so many variables i.e. the proportion of women to men in higher skilled jobs that the question is meaningless.
Mark Stone, UK

Women are not doing the same job as men, other wise they would be paid the same

Ron, UK
Women are not doing the same job as men, other wise they would be paid the same. If a woman has been in a job for x number of years and a man for y number, then they are not likely to be paid exactly the same. Women work fewer hours than men and therefore generally progress up a company at a slower rate. If women want the same as men then they must work as hard and not expect to have time off for children and families. I resent having women leave a company for 2 years, being subsidised to have children and then to walk back at into a job and to expect to get a great big pay increase for doing so.
Ron, UK

At the dawn of the New Millennium, it is imperative that both sexes receive equal pay for equal work. It is also totally unacceptable for women to receive less money, during their professional lives, due to maternity leave. If it were not for the latter, where would the human race be?
Neville Sloane, UK/Canada

I think it is utterly disgraceful in this day and age, women are treated in such a way. I wonder what the government would do and the media if employers decided to pay Black, Asian, etc. people less than their white co-workers? Just because they had different coloured skin?
Clare, England

As James Brown said, "It's a Man's Man's world."

Allan Cerf, USA
As James Brown said, "It's a Man's Man's world." With respect to Mr. Brown who probably did not have male chauvinism in mind, the truth of this saying cannot be denied, at least in the USA. My mother was a Ph.D. head of a department at a famous University - making far less than her immediate, male predecessor, despite doing PRECISELY the same work. These University lawyers are regarded as the toughest in the world so a law suit was useless. (Also, none other than Lloyds of London insured the University against discrimination suits.) Her story is all-too-common ... Yet I don't see the situation changing any time soon.
Allan Cerf, USA

Of course it is not fair that women should earn less than men for the same job. But is it fair that women should receive perhaps twice as much pension than men, simply because they live seven or eight years longer? Perhaps one unfairness is cancelled out by the other.
David Lewis, Switzerland

I do think it disgraceful that there is still such a differential between women and men's pay, especially in those cases where parenthood is not an issue. It is not as easy as comparing like with like - to a large extent there are still 'men's jobs' and 'women's jobs' with women's jobs usually pay much less. As regards working mothers, I believe that people should be rewarded for work on a merit basis. If an employee is working shorter hours, having more days off and is inflexible why should they get treated the same as employees who are none of those things, whatever the reasons? Employers need to recognise that fathers as well as mothers have responsibilities attached to parenthood and it should be up to parents to decide which one of them is prepared to make the sacrifices.
Jo Lord, UK

This is an issue of fairness, not of sex discrimination, and affects people within the sexes as well as between them

C Rhode, UK
It is not fair for one person to earn less than another for performing a job just as well. This is an issue of fairness, not of sex discrimination, and affects people within the sexes as well as between them. Let us stop making things women's issues unless they only affect women. Statistics are often misleading. That the average male earnings are higher than the female average means just that - and nothing else. It does not in itself mean that most men earn more than most of their female counterparts, just that a few earn much more. This means that the rest of the men loose out as much as most of the women.
C Rhode, UK

Is this truly about equality in the workplace or is this just another example of feminist groups creating yet another division in our society and in our relationships with the opposite sex? I am of the opinion that women do not earn less than their male counterparts. They do however enjoy benefits that men do not. Whether that be with maternity leave, service industry jobs, or even if they live of the backs of their husband incomes. If these political groups truly want equality then maybe they should start by addressing the discrimination that men suffer in the home, in the custody of their children and in other aspects of society where men are either not allowed to participate. Or if they do, are then discriminated by the very same feminist who produce such political biased reports that again in my opinion have absolutely no founding whatsoever.
Jason, US From UK

One job, one wage, such a simple ideal, and yet 30 years after it was passed, it still seems impossible to implement! Just what are we to think about the state of equality and attitudes towards women's worth if this small but fundamental gesture is not honoured? To those who are not incensed by these findings, I truly do not understand your apathy.
Wendy, UK

If the woman is equally qualified and doing precisely the same work as a man, then the going rate for the job should be precisely the same for both. No question of anything different. I do ask the question, who actually compiled this report; men or women?
Phil W, UK

Take a male dominated industry such as IT, surely this contributes to the imbalance between male and female pay.
James McCormack, England

If women can do the same job as a man then they should get the same wage.

Sarah Bibby, UK
If women can do the same job as a man then they should get the same wage - whether they are actors or office workers. It should be equal wages to go with the equal opportunities we are all meant to have.
Sarah Bibby, UK

I must disagree strongly with Cath Messum's claim for a large increase in maternity pay. If you want true equality, there should be no maternity pay at all. One can always choose not to have children. Why should the taxpayer and the employers have to subsidise this lifestyle choice?
William Fish, UK

Kind of an obvious answer, no it isn't fair. However, let us not assume that because the inequality is obvious, that the solution is too. Simply demanding that both sexes should have equal pay would lead to the bigots that underpay becoming resentful. This could lead to further discrimination against women. Rather, we should consider why society as a whole has produced this imbalance. Surely at this point in time we could find better ways of identifying with other people on this planet than just through their gender. Yet still people will disassociate and alienate fellow human beings based on nothing more than their sex. The sooner society learns not to split itself into the men and the women, the sooner inequalities like this cease.
Matt, Netherlands (from UK)

Of course it's not fair. Whatever happened to our equal opportunities legislation?

Steve N, UK
I am fortunate to have been employed by a company which, in theory, does not discriminate. However, I have seen that women tend to be "put-upon" more frequently then male staff of the same grade, more so if the line manager happens to be male. The notion that female colleagues are there to be treated as wet nurses still exists. I have also noticed that if a certain male colleague in our team takes Monday off nothing is said whereas if any of us female staff are forced to Monday off we are given the third degree.
Hazel, UK

What a load of rubbish. In every job I've ever seen there is a salary for a position irrespective of whether it is taken by a man or a woman. If a woman chooses (and it is a choice) to have a baby then she will need to rely on her husband/partner for financial support until she can return to work. I believe that her job should remain open to her for up to a year but she shouldn't be paid a full salary during that period.
Alex Candless, UK

Wage differentials based on any form of preconception or prejudice rather than ability to do the job are unacceptable.

Andy Mayer, UK
Wage differentials based on any form of preconception or prejudice rather than ability to do the job are unacceptable. Whether that's gender, race, sexuality or any other social cleavage. What makes these issues difficult however is that it's not at all clear on a case by case basis whether gender differentials are based on prejudice or simply on what the market will bear. Is it the case for example that women earn less because women are prepared to accept less or because employers (whether male or female) discriminate? There are no easy answers, the only fair result is to ensure employees have proper redress through the courts should there be evidence of active discrimination and that our children are educated on the issues to combat passive discrimination.
Andy Mayer, UK

The emancipation of women, the achievement of full equality between the sexes, is an important prerequisite to world peace. The denial of such equality perpetrates an injustice against one half of the world's population and promotes in men harmful attitudes and habits that are carried from the family to the workplace, to political life, and ultimately to international relations. There are no grounds, moral, practical, or biological, upon which such denial can be justified. Only as women are welcomed into full partnership in all fields of human endeavour will the moral and psychological climate be created in which international peace can emerge.
Simon Cameron, UK

I think that we really need to get down to a situation where an employee is measured on their own merits and receive just rewards for the job that they do.

Samantha Stewart, Lithuania
Naive though it may be, I think that we really need to get down to a situation where an employee is measured on their own merits and receive just rewards for the job that they do. 'Positive discrimination' is not a solution. I'm young, female, and - thankfully - have reached a stage in my career when I can be my own boss: and therefore, have largely a free rein in setting my own salary and rewards. Not so many other women are so lucky, especially in the market I'm working in just now. How to solve the problem? Look at what the rest of Europe's up to. The UK is not the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
Samantha Stewart, Lithuania

Having proper maternity pay, related to earning, would help the balance. What good is 59 a week to someone who normally earns 300+ (which is what most professional women must do)? Also, in households where women earn a similar amount to their husbands, a career break becomes a luxury as not many couples can afford to halve their income at a time when their expenditure increases. In these cases children become a luxury. As women do become high earners, then expect the birth rate to drop even further.
Cath Messum, UK

No. Employers are not living in the past. Statistically women are more like to have more time off work through natural ailments, pregnancy etc. Should employers be penalised through no fault of their own, NO they should not.
Chris Shiels, UK

Women should expect to earn less, they leave to have children, move with their husbands, and generally do not contribute so much to a company's performance

Andrew Norwood, UK
Women who do the same job as men and bring the same quality and experience to the job should no more be discriminated against in terms of pay as a black person compared to a white. However, if a woman does not put in the same effort, the same hours and has less experience (whether this is because of breaks for children or whatever) then they do not deserve the same pay. Where I work, pay awards are made purely on merit. Although I came into the job at a lower salary than a man doing the same job, he had more and wider experience than me. Two years on, my merit rises have meant my salary has overtaken his. This is because I worked for it, not because of sex. There are jobs women physically cannot do as well as men (yes, I know there are exceptions) because we're not physically built for the job. If such a woman is not able to do the same job as a man, she should not receive the same pay simply because she is a woman.
Jenni, UK

Any sexual discriminations should be punished. Anyone who has this kind of thought think about how you were born. It is your mother who gave you life.
Mayong, China

Whilst it is true that society in general is not wholly meritocratic, each individual must argue their own case. It would be downright foolish for women to simply jump onto this bandwagon, as this often only serves to fudge the real issues. What we need is balance, not sexual warfare!
Brendan Fernandes, England

While most guys have to work all of their lives, most women still tend to think in terms of working less, or not at all, when they have children. Whether this is right or wrong, I pass no judgement. And I am also cognisant of the millions of women who juggle both a career and family ... but the fact remains, the majority of women will, at some point in their lives, consider their career to be of secondary importance. And it is this behaviour that drives the worth of ALL women in the market. I think that there is a slow, but inexorable, trend towards change, but we're a long way from the nirvana sought by the pressure groups.
Mark M. Newdick, USA/UK

How were these figures calculated. Could it be that women earn less on average than men not because they get paid less for the same jobs, but because there are more men doing the high powered high paying jobs. Whether this is the case, or women really do earn less for the same jobs, this is a shameful situation to be in as we enter the 21st century.
Tristan O'Dwyer, England

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See also:
21 Feb 00 |  Business
Women way behind on pay
27 Oct 99 |  The Economy
Gender pay gap fight launched
09 Jun 99 |  The Economy
Women's pay lags behind

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