Equal pay is equally important to men

Let’s clear something up straight away. I am appalled that in 2022, 50+ years after the Equal Pay Act, my physical embodiment and gender identity (I’m a cisgender male) could easily mean that in many jobs and workplaces across the country, I’d be paid more for the same work or work of equal value when compared to a colleague who does not share those same characteristics. 

Beyond equality of pay simply being the right and legal thing for any workplace, let’s look at some of the reasons I (and hopefully lots of other men out there) support equal pay.

Pay transparency and achieving equal pay makes for a more contented, harmonious, and productive workplace. I worked in several jobs, early in my career, where poor pay and treatment were rife. I resented the work. I’d do the minimum to get by; rarely go the extra inch, never mind a mile, to contribute, and I’d be looking for another job as soon as I became aware of the injustice (I’d not yet discovered the power of a union!). My privileges (gender, ethnicity, education, family, to name a few) meant I escaped the cycle of crappy jobs, crappy treatment, and crappy money and can reflect and assign those injustices to youth and inexperience. But why do my experiences of workplace injustice matter? Because they allow me to reflect and empathise with people for whom that is not a short-lived experience.

Imagine for a moment, like many women in workplaces across the country, that sense of injustice is a ubiquitous experience. Picture going to work every day feeling any combination of resentment, anger, sapped morale, disinclination to do your very best (or feeling like you have to be at the very top of your game every day for even the chance to play on the very unlevel playing field), or regularly looking for another job so your head is only half in the one you’re doing, and it’s clear to me that in addition to the deep injustice meted out to those women, those workplaces are worse for that injustice and far worse for everyone working in them.

A contented workforce, equally and well paid for the work it does, goes a long way to create a positive workplace culture; distrust bred by pay secrecy and suspicions of inequality will drive, in my opinion, and experience, a selfish work culture absent of sharing and collaboration because employees don’t trust their employer and don’t trust one another.  

In presenting the personal concerns I have with unequal pay, I’m fully aware that my alliance with women on matters of equal pay could easily be cast as me being a well-paid bloke in a privileged position who’s easily able to say supportive things without being materially affected. In writing this blog I have been very cautious of trying not, as a male author, to ‘mansplain’ the problems of unequal pay to people who know only too well, from being at the sharp end of our unequally paid workforce, those problems.        

If we are principally opposed to the inequality and accept that unequal pay has negative effects on everyone where it exists, men need to step up and find practical ways to ally with women to address the problem. 
The Equality Trust’s Equal Pay Toolkit explores how various workplace policies and practices, beyond ‘the pay policy’ intersect to put women at a pay disadvantage. As allies, men should be side-by-side with women, joining and getting active in their unions, breaking the taboo of talking about pay, challenging unequal pay where it exists, and volunteering where necessary to be the pay comparators in legal cases to remedy the inequality.   

Duncan Woodhead, National Officer FDA, London

*This is a guest blog and the views of the author are not necessarily those of The Equality Trust.