Women and low pay: third sector must mind the gap

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Susan Smith explains why the third sector's gender pay gap figures are not worth celebrating

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11th April 2018 by Susan Smith 0 Comments

It is good news that Scotland’s top ten charities are bucking the gender pay gap trend, but the reality is not as positive as this seems.

Special congratulations go to Enable and Cornerstone, which have both published a gender pay gap in favour of women. As these organisations are 73% and 80% staffed by women, and also have female chief executives, this is particularly reassuring.

With the overall third sector mean pay gap sitting at 4.7% against the Scottish average of 13.7%, the third sector seems to be doing pretty well overall. However, if you dig a bit deeper, the picture becomes murkier.

Three-quarters of Scottish charities who have reported this year have a pay gap in favour of men, this is despite two-thirds of the workforce being women. 

Eight of the top ten charities by staffing levels in Scotland are social care organisations. They range from 67% female staff to 85% female staff.

The vast majority of these staff will be providing frontline social care and earn on or around the living wage. A 35-hour full-time living wage salary works out at around £17,290, well below the Scottish average salary of £23,150.

Overall the third sector is the lowest paid and lowest prestige sector of our society. Should we be celebrating that it pays men as badly as women when men are turning their backs on it as a career option?

According to Close the Gap, in 2016 in Scotland the pay gap between men and women’s overall average hourly earnings was in fact 14.9%, or 32.2% when comparing men’s full-time average hourly earnings with women’s part-time average hourly earnings. Quite simply, men are more successful than women at getting jobs that pay better.

In this light, third sector organisations are exacerbating the overall pay gap by paying so many women so poorly.

A lot of work has been done over the last few years to bring the social care pay rate up to the current living wage. Organisations like Enable and Cornerstone are leading in the move to professionalise social care and make it a more attractive, and lucrative, long-term career path.

As a sector, though, we cannot be complacent. We still have a long way to go before our female staff are valued equally to male workers.

Susan Smith is editor of Third Force News.

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