Wage war on pay bias

November 26, 1999

Saul Estrin's admission that his female staff earn lower salaries because of lower positions ("Natfhe rails at 'endemic discrimination' in pay", THES, November 12) reminded me of a train driver who once announced our late arrival as "due to the train running slower today". Women being constantly overlooked for promotion is just another worm in the general rot and is hardly an excuse.

Nevertheless, I know of cases in higher education of men taking the same post as a woman, either simultaneously or when replacing her, and automatically getting paid up to 25 per cent more. At one previous HE employer, I found this for every comparable pair of research and support staff in one department.

Guilty though we women may be of not driving harder bargains for ourselves (often too relieved at getting a job at all, given recruitment discrimination), one effective way to tackle pay inequality is to be less bashfully British and to declare our salaries openly to lay bare the discrepancies. Through this, one senior female researcher in the above case discovered her unequal earnings and swiftly obtained an out-of-court settlement from the institution. But how many of us have this courage, when we are also on less secure contracts than men? And so the rot deepens, to the accountants' undoubted relief and to women's continuing misery.

Clare Davies Research fellow, department of psychology, University of Surrey

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