The fact that women receive 80% less bonuses than men in the UK’s top finance companies comes as no surprise. Following an official inquiry by the Equality and Human Rights Commission the financial sector has been exposed as the sexist, male-dominated workplace that anyone acquainted with the extent to which gender inequalities are still rife in modern Britain could have guessed it to be.
It has been publicised that the FTSE 100 have been paying their female employees only £2,875 in bonuses, compared to the juicy sum of £14,554 to their male counter-parts. The inequality also runs further with female executives earning annual salaries of £1.2 million against the £2 million that male executives do. The highest-paid woman, Cynthia Carroll the chief executive of Anglo American, is paid £4 million, while the highest-paid man, Rechitt Benchiser chief executive of Bart Becht, receives nine times that amount. It may not seem too much of problem when a person’s wage is hitting the million mark; however, these inequalities are mirrored in all sectors of employment.
These shocking statistics from the EHRC have sent the media into frenzy, making directionless aims at what the underlying cause of this inequality could be. With only 22 women out of hundreds of men occupying positions that involve the day-to-day running of leading companies, the boardroom is obviously an excessively competitive, male-dominated area. It is well known that employees are expected to work overtime and unsocial hours, which is an element of city work in which women fall down. With women being the main child-carer they have other responsibilities and need more flexible hours so that they can pick up the kids from school and maintain free weekends. What is continually overlooked is whether this is a woman’s choice not to prioritise work over their children, or is it a necessity due to legal and political inequalities?
With maternity and paternity leave looking staggeringly similar to how it did when it was first implemented in 1975, how can anyone expect women to achieve equality in the workplace? From the offset, nine months paid maternity leave, compared to the abysmal two weeks paternity leave, forces women to take on the burden of juggling a career with main childcare responsibilities. Women should not be asking for better childcare facilities at work, but should be fighting for legal and political equality when it comes to parental childcare. It should be about choice, not about there being no other options.
Another pitfall for female executives is that bonuses and promotions are discretionary. The lack of transparency about pay, promotion opportunities and bonuses leads to chief executives inequitably reeling out higher wages to their friends. These friendships are created through male-bonding sessions, which largely involve going to the pub, attending football matches and lap-dancing clubs. An anonymous senior female city worker stated in an article for the Guardian that it is hard “if you’re a woman in a male-dominated atmosphere” and that “it’s not uncommon that women are systematically held back, maybe men think women might not be capable at performing – obviously not true ”. This macho culture ensures that men maintain dominance and preserve the out-dated tradition that the boardroom is a man’s place.
It seems as though women have to prove themselves more than men do in the workplace. Research into the capability has shown that having a woman in the boardroom does not boost profits, but Leeds University Business School has shown that having at least one female director reduces the company’s chance of going bust by approximately 20%. During a financially turbulent time, one would think that hiring and rewarding women in the boardroom would be a strategic move.
The research by the EHRC ultimately shows that sexism is still prevalent within the workplace, and that there is an obvious need for a more active approach to gaining equality of the sexes. This means revamping legal and political legislation to provide equality on all levels, especially when it comes to childcare, as well as encouraging transparency within organisations so that any inequalities become apparent. Most importantly, we need to break down the barriers and tackle sexist attitudes to ensure that real choice for women becomes a reality, not a battle.