April 15, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
Prime Minister Theresa May isn’t very popular in the U.K. She’s made a number of missteps and misstatements on a range of subjects that have enriched ophthalmologists forced to treat legions of Brits for terminally-rolled eyeballs. Her speech to Parliament, reported on here, won’t improve matters (Evening Standard, 4/8/18). But, cockeyed optimist that I am, I perceive what I think to be a silver lining to the cloud.
How is it possible to be so wrong so often in such little space? May doesn’t know the most basic facts about her chosen topic. Don’t they have search engines over there?
Her speech is about the horrifying fact that women in the U.K. earn, on average, less than do men. This is not news. Nor is it news why they do. As in the U.S. and throughout the 36 nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, women earn less than men for two primary reasons - they work fewer hours and they work at lower-paying jobs. Those two factors account for all but about five percentage points of the wage gap. The rest is accounted for by a variety of factors like different levels of seniority, negotiating skills, etc.
Needless to say, as elsewhere, sex discrimination in pay is illegal in the U.K., so May had to find someone to blame other than the women who work fewer hours than men, choose lower-paying employment and do inexplicable things like taking time off work to care for their children. To no one’s great surprise, she found a villain near to hand – men.
Theresa May has called on fathers to share parental responsibility more equally to make it easier for women to have a career as well as a family.
Yes, it’s the same old song that we’ve heard so many times and it sounds the same discordant note. The assumption is that Little Nell is married to Snidely Whiplash who forces her to stay home and tend the children while he fiendishly goes off to slave and earn to support the family. Dastardly deeds, for sure.
Does it occur to May that men and women in relationships with each other decide how to arrange their lives? Does she understand that motherhood is a powerful motivator for women? Does she know that countless surveys, studies, etc. find women voluntarily opting out of paid work in favor of childcare? Has she read the study that finds that almost 70% of working American women would prefer to work less than they do, not more? The simple truth is that men earn more than women because they value resource provision more. That’s entirely predictable given eons of hominid evolution that selected for exactly that type of male. It’s even more predictable given that a man who slips in earning (as by, for example, losing his job) runs the single greatest risk of getting divorced.
Men prefer gainful employment to domestic work; women are the opposite. Is it possible that May doesn’t know this?
Whether she does or not, tinkering with laws isn’t going to change anything. In the U.K., men already have the right to a modest paternity leave. It’s less than women’s, but they still have the right. And yet we’ve seen numerous articles reporting that men don’t take the leave they’re entitled to. To anyone who understands the simplest, most basic facts about men’s and women’s employment behavior, that comes as no surprise. Theresa May seems to not understand it at all.
But there’s more. Specifically, May doesn’t mean it when she says she wants men to take more time to care for their kids. We know this because,
She said that the Government “must encourage fathers to share caring roles more fairly, through initiatives such as shared parental leave, and promote schemes for mothers returning to work.
Yes, the country must do what it’s already done (parental leave) and that’s proven not to work. And it must “promote schemes” to browbeat women into doing what they don’t want to do. But that’s not the worst part. No, the worst is that May entirely ignored what could work – shared parenting. It is all but beyond belief that, amid such a whoop-di-doo about women and work, the Prime Minister managed to ignore the one thing that would in fact allow them to work and earn more. If British judges ordered equal parenting for mothers and fathers, women would have more of an opportunity to enhance their earnings, savings, career advancement, etc.
May’s speech in a nutshell was this: we must do what we’ve already done and know doesn’t work and not do what we’re not doing that probably would work. I suppose that constitutes an evil sort of genius.
Oh, about that silver lining. May’s speech was so absurd, so at odds with long-known facts, that any action taken pursuant to it will accomplish nothing. In short, no harm no foul.
This is what we’ve come to. The head of state of an important country manages to make a speech about which the best we can say is it probably will do no harm. And it’s fair to consider that a victory of sorts.
National Parents Organization is a Shared Parenting Organization
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Together, we can drive home the family, child development, social and national benefits of shared parenting, and fair child support and alimony. Thank you for your activism.
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