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.

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Why Theresa May can't end speculation of an early general election

Both Conservative and Labour MPs regard a contest next year as the solution to their problems. 

One of Theresa May’s first acts as a Conservative leadership candidate was to rule out an early general election. After a tumultuous 2015 contest and the EU referendum, her view was that the country required a period of stability (a view shared by voters). Many newly-elected Tory MPs, fearful of a Brexit-inspired Ukip or Liberal Democrat surge, supported her on this condition.

After entering Downing Street, May reaffirmed her stance. “The Prime Minister could not have been clearer,” a senior source told me. “There won’t be an early election.” Maintaining this pledge is an important part of May’s straight-talking image.

But though No.10 has wisely avoided publicly contemplating an election (unlike Gordon Brown), the question refuses to die. The Conservatives have a majority of just 12 - the smallest of any single-party government since 1974 - and, as David Cameron found, legislative defeats almost inevitably follow. May’s vow to lift the ban on new grammar schools looks to many like an unachievable task. Former education secretary Nicky Morgan and former business minister Anna Soubry are among the Tories leading the charge against the measure (which did not feature in the 2015 Conservative manifesto).  

To this problem, an early election appears to be the solution. The Tories retain a substantial opinion poll lead over Labour, the most divided opposition in recent history. An election victory would give May the mandate for new policies that she presently lacks.

“I don’t believe Theresa May wishes to hold an early election which there is evidence that the country doesn’t want and which, given the current state of the Labour Party, might be seen as opportunistic,” Nigel Lawson told today’s Times“If, however, the government were to find that it couldn’t get its legislation through the House of Commons, then a wholly new situation would arise.”

It is not only Conservatives who are keeping the possibility of an early election alive. Many Labour MPs are pleading for one in the belief that it would end Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. An early contest would also pre-empt the boundary changes planned in 2018, which are forecast to cost the party 23 seats.

For Corbyn, the possibility of an election is a vital means of disciplining MPs. Allies also hope that the failed revolt against his leadership, which Labour members blame for the party’s unpopularity, would allow him to remain leader even if defeated.

Unlike her predecessors, May faces the obstacle of the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act (under which the next election will be on 7 May 2020). Yet it is not an insurmountable one. The legislation can be suspended with the backing of two-thirds of MPs, or through a vote of no confidence in the government. Alternatively, the act could simply be repealed or amended. Labour and the Liberal Democrats, who have demanded an early election, would struggle to resist May if she called their bluff.

To many, it simply looks like an offer too good to refuse. Which is why, however hard May swats this fly, it will keep coming back. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.