Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Gender pay gap reversed in IT Sector

Gender Pay GapThis week I've be intrigued by two pieces of news. The first was a debate on Question Time ***grown up alert*** about a recent report by the Office of National Statistics which concluded that women in full time employment earn on average 13% less than their male counterparts. As the ensuing conversation with MissClick proved, this is a testy subject! Therefore, I'll tread carefully. The reasons behind the pay gap are very complex and despite the DTI's Women and Equality Unit carrying out a reasonable analysis, I'm not sure there is enough understanding to support policy decisions. When you consider that women's rights in the workplace are fiercely protected (it is illegal to pay women less than men for the same job, for example) the nuances are just too subtle for the available stats to untangle. Decisions need to be made nevertheless and one suggestion, which will no doubt put the financial burden on businesses, is for an audit of the gender payroll gap on a company by company basis. Ouch.

As someone whose career has been spent in engineering and IT, I've seen the dangers of when things swing too far the other way and all the positive discrimination nasties creep out. So, I was very intrested to see how this gender gap is actually reversed in the IT sector where, in a study by the Chartered Management Institute in 2005, the average female IT manager earned 2% more than her male equivalent. Before we hoorah the apparently progressive IT business- why is this? According to the Women In Technology (WIT) networking group, women are definitely more in demand for things such as their soft skills and having more interest in results than in the bits and bytes. However, with laws designed to maintain gender pay parity, it seems odd to me that 'demand' should make any difference.

Phew, you try writing that whilst trying to avoid being accused of rampant sexism.

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