The Times’s Melanie Phillips says calling gender pay gap a ‘scandal’ is sexist

Writer claims women 'choose' to be paid less and miss out on promotions

Melanie Phillips


Reactionaries should always beware of criticising ‘mind-bending Leftism (aka political correctness)’, as does Melanie Phillips in today’s Times, for its ability to make day night and night day.

In a stunning case of doublethink all of her own, the World Turned Upside Down author asserts that denouncing the huge difference (19.1 percent) between what men and women are paid in Britain as a ‘scandal’ is in fact a form of sexism.

Phillips writes that women are being paid less on average than men, and miss out on promotions, because they ‘choose’ to focus on motherhood instead.

She adds that calling the gap a ‘scandal’, as David Cameron did recently, assumes that women have no agency and is therefore sexist.

While acknowledging the pay gap, and the fact that ‘women are less likely to work in high-paid careers or industries and are also less likely to move up the promotional ladder’, she writes:

“The mistake is to assume that these factors are driven by discrimination or endemic disadvantages. Some undoubtedly are, but in the main they are driven by women’s own choices.”

This ‘choice’ argument on women’s equality is slightly better than saying women are somehow ‘too stupid’ to earn more or have careers, but not by much. It simply exchanges ignorant contempt for condescension.

Phillips goes on:

“Many of these [choices] are dictated by the trying dilemmas of having to juggle work with childcare or looking after aged parents.

It’s little use saying men should play an equal role in family duties; they won’t, not least because women are generally reluctant to yield their priority as carers within the family.”

Without meaning to, the author draws attention to the matter of just how free these ‘choices’ really are in a society where women are burdened with ‘family duties’, (caring for both the young and the old, apparently), while men often decline to pull their weight in the home.

She grants the right of men to ‘choose’ a career over childcare, even blaming this on women for their ‘reluctance to yield’ their traditional role.

And anyway, women prefer to raise families than progress at work:

“The priority they [women] afford family life also reduces their desire for promotion or high-powered careers.”

Isn’t it interesting how few men ‘choose’ to pursue full or part time fatherhood over work and a career?


Then, as a cherry on top, we have this hilariously overwrought passage (a hallmark of her style):

“In claiming that the gender pay gap was a ‘scandal’, Mr Cameron implied that women were the hapless victims of discrimination and other strategic disadvantages.

This suggests that women are incapable of independent choices, and thus inescapably inferior; indeed, not fully human. In other words, far from advancing women’s interests, this outdated stereotype of female helplessness perpetrates the deepest inequality that there is.”

Phew. That’s quite a brisk gallop from ‘victims’ to ‘not fully human’.

In reality, the pressures, miserly support and chronic lack of choices affecting women is no outdated stereotype.

Dressing up inequality as an expression of liberty and trashing critics of the status quo as bigots is far worse than ‘mind-bending’.

Adam Barnett is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow MediaWatch on Twitter

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5 Responses to “The Times’s Melanie Phillips says calling gender pay gap a ‘scandal’ is sexist”

  1. Torybushhug

    You remind me of those wimpy, sycophantic, lefty guys that feminist women actually find to be a turn off for their relentless pursuit of PC, virtue signalling validation.
    I bet you holiday in Burton Bradstock or Tuscany with other middle class white people with kids called Phoebe and Rollo, you’re every bit as tribal as any right wing bigot.

  2. Mick

    Many women do choose traditional family roles, working or not.

    Also, this is surely better than Labour’s own patronising attitude towards women, with its shortlists and ‘vulva van’ to belittle them. Or calling them ‘bigots’ for not falling in with the dogmatic Labour menfolk.

  3. Chríss

    Er. She’s right.

    Listen, I believe in the left. But a left built on facts. Not on propaganda and talking points. Seriously.

  4. jemf58

    It’s probably worth pointing out that a secondary analysis of gender pay gaps – Secondary Analysis of the Gender Pay Gap, Changes in the gender pay gap over time; Dept of Culture, Media & Sport (March 2014) – shows a much more complex picture than the headline suggests. Women, for example overtook men in pay (an absolute increase) in the 20yrs-30yrs age range. The biggest gap appears in the 40-49yrs age range (men over women). There is therefore a ‘cohort effect’ – which lead to headlines suggesting it would take another 30 yrs approx for the gender gap to equalise. Other variables include occupation/part-time/full-time, and distribution across pay ranges – with the highest gap being amongst top earners – “However, the gender pay gap for those earning the most has not decreased by as much as the other groups between 1997 and 2013. This shows that the gap between the highest earning males and females is not narrowing at the same rate as the rest of the economy” p5. My guess is that top earners are those who are likely to be making choices which gives some very limited credence (much against my value and belief system) to Melanie Phillips view. I think it’s important to ask on what basis (what evidence) Melanie Phillips uses to assert her view.

  5. Keir Hardie

    Maybe I am missing something here.

    Isn’t her point that men can’t bear children? To quote Monty Python, the foetus can hardly gestate in a box.

    And surely by taking time off to have kids impacts career prospects?

    And you insist that women and men should split child upbringing 5050 but is that what all women want? I don’t know, but before putting words in their mouths I would find data to suggest that many women who want to pursue a career cannot do so because they feel obliged to look after the kids. Or do they prefer to look after the kids than pursue a career?

    Either way, rather than assuming your opinion on child raising is universal for all womankind I would get some hard facts.

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