So, second argument as to why women get paid less than men during and over the course of their careers: they “take time off” to have babies. Do I even need to dignify this one with arguments? Well, it’s an issue which is still adversely affecting women so I guess yes, I do.
To start off, we have at present only one way to continue the existence of our species, and that is for women to have babies. There are various ways to start a baby off, all of them at present involving a male sperm and a female egg at some point in the process, but except for the very earliest stages, the only way for the baby to grow to the point at which it can live independently is in a womb, and the only people who currently have wombs are women. So for every baby that is born, a woman has to be willing to provide her body for nine months as a safe, secure and nurturing place in which the new life can propagate. And that’s the only way we as a species can continue.
Put like that, it’s a bit surprising that we as a species don’t respect and value women’s ability to grow and produce babies a bit more. And indeed, in the generality, we do indeed value it highly. From the Madonna to the American ideal of “motherhood and apple pie” via the Oxo family to the modern “yummy mummy”, motherhood as a sort of depersonalised icon is highly revered in our culture. Trouble is, that doesn’t in any way translate to valuing and rewarding individual women who are “stupid” (I use the word ironically) enough to go off and have a baby.
For when that happens, society suddenly turns nasty. Interviewers are no longer able to ask women whether they are planning to have a family, with a view to not employing them if the answer is Yes, but women who do have babies are still seriously disadvantaged in the workplace. Some women lose their jobs, or are demoted or find themselves the subject of spurious disciplinary proceedings when they announce their pregnancies. Others find that jobs they were perfectly well able to do before they had children are suddenly no longer available when they come back from maternity leave. And whilst we”re at it, how about maternity leave? Companies have to pay statutory maternity pay, but that is much much lower than a lot of women are paid, so if women who have babies want to take more than a few weeks off, they have to take a serious pay drop.
In other words, women are solely responsible for securing the future of our species by having babies, since they are the only ones who can do it, and in return we drop on them a whole pile of personal and financial shit.