The pay gap: Why it’s all my fault

Two weeks ago I was interviewed for an internal promotion. Today I found out I didn’t get the post. And I was – how shall I put it? – somewhat less than devastated.

I knew my interview didn’t go well. I knew the other internal candidate had more experience than me. I knew, basically, that I was perhaps not up to the job. And so, to be honest, I was just not that arsed.

I like my job and I want to be good at it. I would also like to earn more money, especially with my partner sending off a million and one job applications and still not getting so much as an interview (who’s the idiot reading these CVs? What ARE they thinking?). But I have to be honest: I don’t want a promotion just for the sake of it. I don’t want to get to the top of the tree simply to say I’ve done it. The truth is, I’d rather be good at what I do.

Coming from a man, comments like this might sound like bravado. I say that, yeah, but I’m crying inside. But I am not a man. I am a woman so you probably believe me. Women lack ambition. Women lack resilience. Women just don’t have the drive. I’m a woman, and I’m probably paid less than the average man in my profession, and it’s probably all my own fault. And clearly, there’s a moral in this, which is that ALL WOMEN DESERVE TO BE PAID LESS THAN MEN AND THE PAY GAP IS AN EVIL FEMINIST LIE!

Look, I call myself a feminist but clearly I am letting the side down. I ought to just sell out completely, take myself off to Femail and see if I can get into one of their features on “How, as a wussy mother, I realised I couldn’t hack it in the cold, hard world of work”. I mean, here I am, the only mother of small children in my entire office who hasn’t gone down to working part-time, and I can’t even get a lousy promotion. How’s that for a double fail? I manage to combine hard-nosed career-bitch child neglect with a total lack of career progression. Woo-hoo! What’s even more worrying is I think I’m also the only woman in my office who openly describes herself as a feminist and uses “Ms”. They’re probably all pissing themselves behind my back.

To be fair, women at the top of the so-called tree rarely seem to be feminists. The so-obvious-I’m-cringing-to-mention-it example of this is Margaret Thatcher. The sad thing is, growing up in the eighties, I really, really liked the fact that the UK had a female prime minister and a female head of state. I didn’t give a fuck what the policies were. I lived in a country where it was still legal for a man to rape his wife and I just thought “hey, cool, we’re led by women!” (to be honest, my political ignorance throughout childhood plumbed much greater depths than this would suggest. I think I was in my mid-twenties before I realised Margaret Thatcher was not, and had never been, married to Michael Foot).

Does it matter that I want more women in positions of power and authority even if I don’t want to be there myself? Isn’t it a pretty crappy cop-out, leaving it to the anti-feminists to schmooze up to the dizzy heights and then do fuck all for the rest of us? What pisses me off most is that, while I don’t think for a minute I even have the capability to be prime minister (but then neither has David Cameron blah blah blah), I feel really guilty for not being better, for not doing more. I can’t help feeling that as a feminist, I have to represent female success and progress on an individual level. But I don’t. I just bumble along. And then I think, do men feel this same pressure to represent their sex? And if not, aren’t I letting the side down even more?

It drives me utterly insane each time I see an article on “women of influence” and Michelle Obama and Samantha Cameron are there topping the list. I mean, I love my partner, but does this mean I should have thought “stuff romance” and just been a more tactical shagger? Is that the way we do it now? (To be honest, I wouldn’t even be good at that. My partner is a white, public-school educated man with a first from Cambridge, perhaps the only one who, rather than running the country, is buying shoes at Matalan. Not quite sure what happened there). Surely a proper feminist should be topping the “power” lists, elbowing her way to the top on her own merits? Is it feminism’s fault that she’s not there yet?

Perhaps. But perhaps not. As I’m in a thinking-in-foreign-languages mood today, I’ve got a song in my head by a German group called Die Sterne. Called Wir / Ihr, it contains the following lines:

Wir lehnen es ab

weil uns das lieber ist als

nach euren Regeln das Spiel zu verlieren

und dann zum Dank dahin zu vegetieren

(My crap translation: We turn it down because we’d rather not lose the game  playing by your rules and then rot away by way of a thank-you. It works much better in the German). But I think that’s kind of it. We’re losing at the game because the rules and the values are the same, and they’re the wrong ones. And while that’s not feminism’s “fault”, it’s something feminism needs to work to change.

Anyhow, enough German song quoting. That’s my excuse for not getting the job and I’m sticking to it.


3 thoughts on “The pay gap: Why it’s all my fault

  1. Fab post. I work in a female dominated field, I have worked my way to fairly high profile position but there is virtually no pay and a lot of expectation of doing stuff for free, because I’m a nice lady, and I fall for it. Every time. Mug.

    1. My field is female-dominated too. I even manage to feel guilty about that. Like, I should have studied science at university and done something science-y as all this language and literature stuff just reinforces the gender stereotypes … I guess I overthink all this to the nth degree (is using a phrase like “the nth degree” at least a bit science-y??). I even get stressed parking my car because I feel I’m “representing” all women drivers …

      1. Me & You soooo need a convo about feminism sometime. I’m brewing a letter on it and would be interested in your perspective as until recently I rather would have been called anything but a feminist!

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