Marks & Spencer’s Chairman, Sir Stuart Rose, caused quite a bit of comment recently when he questioned the existence of a “glass ceiling” regarding women’s careers in the UK. Citing examples of roles in which women now found themselves, such as soldiers and astronauts, Rose seemed to have missed the point when he asked “What is it you haven’t got?” in an interview with The Observer:
“Apart from the fact that you’ve got more equality than you ever can deal with, the fact of the matter is that you’ve got real democracy and there are really no glass ceilings, despite the fact that some of you moan about it all the time.
“Women can get to the top of any single job that they want to in the UK. You’ve got a woman fighter pilot who went in to join the Red Arrows yesterday.”
He told the newspaper: “I mean, what else do you want to do, for God’s sake? Women astronauts. Women miners. Women dentists. Women doctors. Women managing directors. What is it you haven’t got?”
Well, equal pay for one thing. Yes, it’s nice to attain the roles you want to without your gender getting in the way. But to be paid less than a man for doing the same job? Hardly fair, most people would agree. The BBC’s recent programme “The Problem with Working Women” reported that the average woman in the UK will earn over £369,000 less than her male counterpart over their lifetime.
Parity of pay, which may exist while employees are in their 20’s, seems to disappear once they are in their 30s and above. By the time she is 40, the average British woman is earning 20% less than her male counterpart.
Again, hardly fair.
Talk of “glass ceilings” and references to female astronauts or pilots does little to address this imbalance in pay. The question should be less about the job you do and more about the reward you receive for doing that job. Regardless of gender.