Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid Response:

Re: The Gender Pay Gap (GPG) in England's NHS— the worst example of a click bait headline.

We know the arguments. We know how meaningless it is to compare the average of all male employee earnings in an organisation with the average earnings of all female employees in the same organisation unless these statistics are, at the very least, corrected for hours worked per week, or occupation, or position, or level of education.

And yet this broad brush approach persists and is now entrenched in law via an amendment to the Equalities Act. A statistic quoted in the BMJ report on GPG by Appleby from the Guardian attributing the cause of a 40% Gender Pay Gap in the Queen Victoria Hospital to the fact that 54 of its 72 highest earning consultants are men is not a pay gap, it’s a gender differential which is historical and likely to change with time as more female consultants filter through.

In this instance, as in most instances, the use of the term GPG is a complete misnomer. An ideological weapon which advocacy groups have delighted in using to browbeat organisations into action to address one of society's great ills—namely the conscious and unconscious bias against women.

The GPG is seen by some as the consequence of sexist stereotyping. The dark side of social conditioning leading to constrained choices and invisible barriers. But the key word in this statement is ‘choices’. And training and competition and appointment by meritocracy have to remain as the path —and barrier—to excellence. Anything other than that, any kind of affirmative action, is likely to undermine the basis on which the NHS thrives.

What the GPG isn’t is what it purports to be i.e. the underpayment of a woman doing the exact same job as a man where there is no other qualifying, hours worked or experiential difference.

If there is genuine evidence that any employee is paying an equally qualified and experienced female employee less than an equivalent male for the same work, that is illegal, is a punishable offence, and should be reported.

So isn’t it about time we changed the term GPG to something more meaningful and less insulting to our intelligence? Forget the pay, that's already written into law. Let's look instead at the numbers in equivalent jobs. How about caling it the Gender Differential Gap? Then, at least, we’ll find out what sub specialities and careers men and women, on an equal footing, will naturally gravitate to through choice (that keyword again) and we can hopefully quell the vociferous few with irrefutable data. That way we may well be able to finally compare apples with oranges, or doctors with bricklayers. Now wouldn't that be interesting...

Competing interests: No competing interests

07 June 2019
Dylan Jones
Dylan Jones
West wales