“I recently delivered the annual Adam Smith lecture in Kirkcaldy, Fife. It was the first time a woman had been trusted to give this economics lecture all by herself. As a marvellous bagpiper led the way, it struck me that this might be my glass cliff moment. Because, let’s face it, I’m not an obvious choice for such a task. But with men now making up two-thirds of economics students, all but one of the Nobel prizewinners for economics having been a man and every single British chancellor of the exchequer somehow having been required to be a boy, then finding a woman might have been tricky.
By happy coincidence, I chose as the subject of my lecture women’s exclusion from the formal economy. Or as I like to call it, our grossly undervalued domestic product (GUDP). Never, as it happens, has this been more relevant than now, as the full horror of the gender pay gap is revealed. I have so enjoyed watching the debate unfold. Highlights include accusing women of conflating pay discrimination with the gender pay gap – silly women! – though nobody benefits more from this apparent “confusion” than the companies evading legal action.
Better still are those bemoaning the lack of explanatory data, while dogmatically concluding that the gender pay gap has nothing to do with discrimination in hiring or promotion decisions. And my absolute favourite – let’s not forget the pro-choicers. These are the three women on this planet whose privilege and adoration of unfettered capitalism leads them to infer that women simply choose to work for less, and guarantees them a slot on every talkshow “in the interest of balance”.
But the pay gap isn’t the choice of women. It is both a cause and consequence of gender inequality. In many respects it is more important than pay discrimination because it shines a light on the deep structural inequalities in every part of our society and economy.”
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