Yes, women are paid less - but it's their choice
The latest report from the Women and Work Commission fails to appreciate that there are good reasons why women choose the jobs they do
The penny has obviously not entirely dropped but - fingers crossed - it might be about to enter the slot.
In strict accordance with the feminist song sheet from which the entire political-media Establishment has been singing for the last 40 years, the latest report from the Women and Work Commission alleges that "women are still paid on average 22.6 per cent less than men".
Don't you wonder how this can possibly be allowed 40 years after the Equal Pay Act? For what are we paying the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Police? And, also, if it is true, why don't all profit-minded employers hire only women - seeing as they are so much cheaper to employ?
Women choose part-time jobs because those are the jobs that suit them
Unlike most of its forebears, however, the Commission also acknowledges that women's relatively low earnings might have something to do with the jobs they choose and the number of hours they work.
Baroness Prosser's introduction to the report points out that "41 per cent of women work part-time... and women make up three-quarters of the part-time work force".
The report goes on to lament the preponderance of women in lower paid occupations covered by what it calls "the Cs" - cleaning, catering, clerical, caring and cashiering - and it then blames schools for failing to raise the ambitions and expectations of girls by "funneling" them into work which "confirms gender stereotypes".
Apart from the fact that school teachers and careers officers ought to march on Whitehall in furious protest at this slur, the blinkered vision of the Women and Work Commission evidently prevents them from seeing the possibility that women choose part-time jobs because those are the jobs that suit them and give them the flexitime to bring up children.
Why is this so hard to accept? It is demonstrably not true that prejudice against women holds them back from occupying senior positions in high-paying jobs. All of the professions are equally open to women and men and every one of them resolutely and proudly pays men and women the same.
The entire world of public service is equally open to men and women on the same terms (if anything, a distinct prejudice in the public sector operates in favour of women applicants for jobs, as found in the women-only shortlists for parliamentary seats).
Those two sectors account for more than half the economy. In the fields of business and commerce, it becomes ever more obvious that women, in general, are reluctant to go in for higher-paying occupations and positions.
Take engineering, for example. All the professional bodies and all employers are unreservedly committed to encouraging girls to become engineers; yet only 8 per cent of engineering students are girls, of whom fewer than 10 per cent actually go on to work in engineering.
To say that girls are excluded from engineering by male prejudice or by the absence of inspiring role models is indefensible nonsense. The media constantly thrums with celebrations of women's achievements in every field - politics, the arts, sport, commerce, the professions.
Both of the finalists on this year's The Apprentice were young women and they were described by Alan Sugar as "the best candidates" he had ever interviewed. In many fields where women choose to work - such as the media, teaching and medicine - they outnumber men. The Royal College of Physicians found that there will be more women GPs than male ones by 2013, and by 2017 they will make up the majority of hospital doctors.
Women tend now to be invisible only in those physically demanding and filthy jobs where nobody would choose to work if they had a better option. How many women do you see digging the roads or emptying the bins? How many sweep the streets or drive the lorries?
Women outnumber men on the shopfloor of Tesco by 10-1; yet men outnumber women in Tesco management by the reverse ratio. Prejudice? No: this is what free women have freely chosen. ·
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