Bonuses: do we still not recognise equal pay for equal work?

There's a gender gap in top company bonuses.

Women in senior management are being paid bonuses that are only half those of men in identical positions, a survey by the Chartered Management Institute has found. You’ll find very few people in the UK today who would argue that all other things being equal, men deserve higher pay than women — a little top-up in recognition of their maleness — and yet the gender pay gap just won’t close. 

The gap between men and women’s pay cheques isn’t limited to bonuses, of course — across all sectors women are paid an average of 10 per cent less than men. 44.4 per cent of male graduates earn over £24,000, compared to only 30 per cent of women.

There’s a tendency to try and explain away these unfortunate statistics in terms of women opting-out of high-paid roles or choosing to work part-time once they’ve had children (although the 10 per cent pay gap refers to full time workers). Some people have tried to explain away the bonus gap by suggesting that men are more likely than women to be senior management in fields like finance, where bonuses across the board are far higher. 

While this might account for part of the gap, it can’t explain away the whole £141,500 in extra bonus payments a man can expect over his lifetime. This still points to the failing of UK business and industry to promote equality at every level of the work place, and the CMI’s findings are symbolic of a whole workplace culture that still can’t treat women as equal to men, and that frankly isn’t interested supporting women in work. 

The fact that we’re still no nearer to the modest target of ensuring that 25 per cent of FTSE 100 board members are women shows just how uninterested big companies are in changing the status quo.

One interesting aspect of the CMI’s findings is that the gender gap in bonuses widens at more senior levels. At entry level, women earn £989 more than men, but by middle-management they receive £1,760 less than men and at director level the gap widens to £15,561. 

It's not obvious what this means — will the newest generation of female entry-level employees cling on to pay parity more successfully than their predecessors? Are women’s bonuses suffering because they are having children and are less likely to put in the extra hours expected of senior management? Are senior management levels less women-friendly because we know there are fewer women at the top? 

Unless you’re happy with the conclusion that women do not deserve equal pay to men, we need to start answering these questions and holding blasé companies to account.

This piece first appeared on Spear's Magazine

Marissa Mayer. Photograph: Getty Images

Sophie McBain is a freelance writer based in Cairo. She was previously an assistant editor at the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
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Who will win in Stoke-on-Trent?

Labour are the favourites, but they could fall victim to a shock in the Midlands constituency.  

The resignation of Tristram Hunt as MP for Stoke-on-Central has triggered a by-election in the safe Labour seat of Stoke on Trent Central. That had Westminster speculating about the possibility of a victory for Ukip, which only intensified once Paul Nuttall, the party’s leader, was installed as the candidate.

If Nuttall’s message that the Labour Party has lost touch with its small-town and post-industrial heartlands is going to pay dividends at the ballot box, there can hardly be a better set of circumstances than this: the sitting MP has quit to take up a well-paid job in London, and although  the overwhelming majority of Labour MPs voted to block Brexit, the well-advertised divisions in that party over the vote should help Ukip.

But Labour started with a solid lead – it is always more useful to talk about percentages, not raw vote totals – of 16 points in 2015, with the two parties of the right effectively tied in second and third place. Just 33 votes separated Ukip in second from the third-placed Conservatives.

There was a possible – but narrow – path to victory for Ukip that involved swallowing up the Conservative vote, while Labour shed votes in three directions: to the Liberal Democrats, to Ukip, and to abstention.

But as I wrote at the start of the contest, Ukip were, in my view, overwritten in their chances of winning the seat. We talk a lot about Labour’s problem appealing to “aspirational” voters in Westminster, but less covered, and equally important, is Ukip’s aspiration problem.

For some people, a vote for Ukip is effectively a declaration that you live in a dump. You can have an interesting debate about whether it was particularly sympathetic of Ken Clarke to brand that party’s voters as “elderly male people who have had disappointing lives”, but that view is not just confined to pro-European Conservatives. A great number of people, in Stoke and elsewhere, who are sympathetic to Ukip’s positions on immigration, international development and the European Union also think that voting Ukip is for losers.

That always made making inroads into the Conservative vote harder than it looks. At the risk of looking very, very foolish in six days time, I found it difficult to imagine why Tory voters in Hanley would take the risk of voting Ukip. As I wrote when Nuttall announced his candidacy, the Conservatives were, in my view, a bigger threat to Labour than Ukip.

Under Theresa May, almost every move the party has made has been designed around making inroads into the Ukip vote and that part of the Labour vote that is sympathetic to Ukip. If the polls are to be believed, she’s succeeding nationally, though even on current polling, the Conservatives wouldn’t have enough to take Stoke on Trent Central.

Now Theresa May has made a visit to the constituency. Well, seeing as the government has a comfortable majority in the House of Commons, it’s not as if the Prime Minister needs to find time to visit the seat, particularly when there is another, easier battle down the road in the shape of the West Midlands mayoral election.

But one thing is certain: the Conservatives wouldn’t be sending May down if they thought that they were going to do worse than they did in 2015.

Parties can be wrong of course. The Conservatives knew that they had found a vulnerable spot in the last election as far as a Labour deal with the SNP was concerned. They thought that vulnerable spot was worth 15 to 20 seats. They gained 27 from the Liberal Democrats and a further eight from Labour.  Labour knew they would underperform public expectations and thought they’d end up with around 260 to 280 seats. They ended up with 232.

Nevertheless, Theresa May wouldn’t be coming down to Stoke if CCHQ thought that four days later, her party was going to finish fourth. And if the Conservatives don’t collapse, anyone betting on Ukip is liable to lose their shirt. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.