Lucky lesbians: the pay gap no one wants to talk about
On Friday, the British government announced its much-touted plans to tackle the mythical gender pay gap.
The Tories want to force British companies to publish data on the earnings of their male and female employees in an attempt to ‘shame’ companies into resolving the alleged injustice of pay inequality.
What all this handwringing misses is that the gender pay gap isn’t the shameful product of endemic discrimination – it is the result of free choices made by individuals in a free society.
Where men and women do earn different wages, it is often because they do different jobs and tend to make different choices later in life. When entering the workforce, women in their twenties and thirties actually earn more than men.
In order to end this discrepancy, should we force men and women to change careers – to make them the same, rather than just equal? Should we pressurise firms into paying childminders the same as builders?
Though the gender pay gap freakout has dominated discussion recently, another ‘pay gap’ has also been in the news – between lesbians and straight women. Pink News reported that gay women in the US, the UK, Canada, Germany and the Netherlands earn nine per cent more than heterosexual women on average, and the gap is growing.
The reasons behind this ‘sexuality pay gap’ are probably quite similar to those behind the gender pay gap. Gay women are less likely to have children and take time out of their careers to raise a family, meaning they’re more likely to get promoted. They’re also more likely to choose highly paid, competitive jobs in the first place, as they might not expect to want a family in the future.
Where is the government concern about the emerging ‘sexuality pay gap’? Why are the Tories not forcing companies to draw lines between their female workforces and publish data on what those different groups earn? Possibly because there would be no political capital to gain, no kudos for standing up to inequality.
Straight women are not mourned as victims of lesbian bias. In fact, lesbians sit lower down in the imagined victim pile, so their success is not deemed a shameful problem for equality.
No one seriously believes that employers are universally discriminating in favour of lesbians, or that there is some mystical global force of structural oppression used by lesbians to get ahead of straight women, do they?
That would be crazy, right? A bit like that other mystical force that all right-on people believe in – the ‘patriarchy’.
Liam Deacon is a journalist based in London.
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