The Students’ Association’s gender pay gap figures suggest they are committed to gender equality

Edinburgh University Students’ Association have publicly released their gender pay gap figures, following legislation that demands all organisations with over 250 employees do so. Their figures regarding gender, staff ratios and pay reveal some interesting trends. In order to understand these figures, we need an idea of why there is a pay gap, and what the national trends are in comparison to the statistics released by the Students’ Association.

There are a wide variety of factors that contribute to the gender pay gap in the UK. Firstly, women in a nuclear family setting are traditionally far more likely than men to take on the role of the ‘stay at home parent’, or to find a job with flexible hours in order to look after children. Historically, there have also been many cases of men being preferred over their equally-qualified female counterparts, or paid more than women doing the same job. This is due to an inherited bias against women, but also to factors such as the uncertainty involved with employing someone who is likely to take maternity leave in the near future. Rightly or wrongly, younger women are perceived to sit in this group.

Additionally, traditional gender roles that situate women in ‘domestic’ positions and men in more ‘public’ roles (as well as positions of influence or leadership) still prevail in many situations, whether consciously or unconsciously. These factors all contribute to a reducing, but still significant trend of women earning less than men.

There have been huge improvements in this area since the Equal Pay Act of 1970. Under the 2010 Equality Act, age and sex are now two of the nine ‘protected characteristics’ in UK labour law, meaning that they cannot be used as a reason not to employ someone. Even so, old habits die hard. The subliminal messaging of upbringing and media, along with many employers being accustomed to a male-dominated workplace, can still lead to discrimination.

It’s also not just employers who control the pay gaps in their workplace. Due to stereotypes and gender roles, as well as practical factors, women are less likely to apply for salaried jobs. This is especially true in traditionally male-dominated environments like political, finance and business sectors – which, incidentally, are where some of the highest-paid jobs lie.

All this considered, the Students’ Association’s statistics are refreshingly hopeful. On the whole, the organisation has a much lower gender pay gap than the country average (an 8.39 per cent pay gap in favour of men, compared to an 18.4 per cent UK average). The pay gap is more significant amongst more senior levels of the salaried staff, partly influenced by the fact that the senior management and head of department teams are male-dominated.

It is worth noting that these are some of the highest-paid positions in the organisation, suggesting an inherent bias in favour of men. This statistic tells us that men are more likely to progress to the highest positions of leadership within the Students’ Association, however, there is no clear evidence to suggest that they are paid more for the same job.

Among hourly-paid staff, there is basically no pay gap, but women are over-represented – almost 65 per cent are female. However, the report tells us that this workforce is made up overwhelmingly of students, and that this ratio reflects the overall male-to-female ratio among the student body.

Overall, the Students’ Association’s statistics are a welcome indication that the gender pay gap is slowly getting smaller. The report shows some areas with need for improvement, but on the whole presents the organisation as genuinely non-discriminatory and shows the efforts being made to present equal opportunities to its employees.

If you want to view Edinburgh University Students’ Association’s gender pay gap report you can do so here.

Image: Stinglehammer via Wikimedia Commons

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