Lets think about this logically. I am a business owner and I have a choice between two candidates, both equally qualified. One costs me less than the other. Why on earth would I possibly pick the more expensive option? Surely it would make sense as an employer to minimise costs. If women were truly paid less than men for equal work, us men would be screwed. We would be out of jobs, or forced to demand lower wages.
On top of this paying women or indeed any other group less than another for equal work is illegal. This has been the case since 1970 when the equal pay act was passed through parliament. The problem is numpty guardian readers will see these aggregated figures and jump to the conclusion that women are systematically discriminated against. This is statistical nonsense.
There are a number of reasons for this inequality at an aggregate level. Women tend to choose career paths which lead to lower paid jobs. This is also compounded by the fact that after having children, women do take time away from work. Finally more women then men choose part time work over full time. Simon Maybin wrote a fantastic article on this issue for the BBC last August.
As these things are matters of choice, as a society we should be relaxed on this issue. After all not everything is about money, making lifestyle choices which prioritise other things is a legitimate choice which we should respect. Plenty of women would make the argument that natural maternal instincts mean even where the choice to share parenting responsibility exists they would not take it.
Of course if we do want to increase the pay women receive in employment the answers are simple. Encourage women in our families to study science, technology, engineering and maths, over studying the arts or english literature. Where new mothers want to go back to work, discussion with fathers needs to take place about sharing paternity and maternity leave.
If after doing these two things there is a gap at an aggregate level, we should accept this as born out of choice. Freedom and liberty are fundamental to our society, there is absolutely nothing wrong with making choices which aren’t all about money. After all even economists use “utility” over money as the preffered measure human well being.