Sunday, 11 October 2015

The Outcome of Outcome Feminism – Part 5 - Discrimination

Author: Blaise Wilson

The Outcome of Outcome Feminism Series:

Part 1 – Factors to be Controlled:
Part 2- Assumptions:
Part 3 – Freeing Women's Time and Money:
Part 4 – Cultural Pressure:
Part 5 – Discrimination: This article
Part 6 - Discussion of Assumption 6:
Part 7 - Discussion of Assumption 1:
Part 8 - The Outcome of Outcome Feminism Conclusion:
Part 9 - Campaigns and Action:

One of the outcome feminist assumptions highlighted in part 2 was the reason women are not in certain roles is due to discrimination.

The main suggested solutions are:
  • improve the ability to get justice for discrimination
  • treat people differently, based on characteristic rather than ability or opportunities
  • force companies to provide gender analysis data
  • use quotas
  • provide women centric jobs, tailored to their needs

In the previous articles we established which factors play a role in the Gender Wage Gap. After highlighting numerous required assumptions, the factors boiled down to:
  • Freeing up women's time and money
  • Cultural pressure
  • Discrimination 
This part concentrates on solutions to solving discrimination against women.

These articles focus on developed countries, namely the UK and the US.

Discrimination is defined as:

“The unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex” [15]

In the UK this is covered by the Equality Act 2010 [16] which combined multiple laws into one. However, under UK law positive action is allowed under certain circumstances, such as choosing a candidate from an under-represented group in favour of one who isn't in the event of a tie of eligibility for a role [17].

The EU are pushing for quotas, which the UK has resisted so far [20]. There is some confusion over the legality of quotas in the UK, with some people stating they are legal [21] and others citing the Equality Act 2010 meaning they are illegal [22].

It is likely this confusion stems from the definitions within the “Equality Act 2010 that allow positive action in respect of employment – it should be noted that positive discrimination continues to be illegal in most cases” [22, p1]. This raises the question 'what is the difference between positive discrimination and positive action?' Without further clearly defined and bounded definitions it appears the difference is one is legal, while the other is not [23].

Legal: “Positive action (or affirmative action) is laws and policies that attempt to promote equal opportunity by taking into account gender, race, disability or other equality strands in order to positively improve outcomes for these groups. The focus of positive action might be to redress systemic, historical or institutional discrimination or to promote diversity in business and public sector organisations” [22, p3].

Illegal: ““Positive discrimination” in employment normally indicates actions that seek to redress historical inequalities through a reverse principle of discrimination in favour of a disadvantaged group” [22, p3].

As highlighted earlier in this series, it is assumed the reason women are not obtaining senior roles is due to discrimination based on numerical representation. This implies a 50% split between men and women should be obtained.

Solutions to Discrimination

Where discrimination happens it must be fought. The consequences should be harsh enough to discourage it [4, 9].

Although there are already laws in place, there is reason to believe these could be improved [3], including ensuring equal pay for broadly equal work, with checks every few years to ensure this remains in place [4, 5].

But this won't help if individuals are unsure, or can not prove they are being discriminated against without fear of risk to their jobs.

““Knowing what your job pays is an integral part of negotiating a fair wage,” said general manager Abby Euler... According to IWPR, nearly half of all U.S. workers are either contractually forbidden or strongly discouraged from discussing their pay with coworkers.” [6]

The US have proposed a Paycheck Fairness Act [1, 4, 6, 7] which makes it illegal to fire an individual for discussion their terms and conditions, including their pay. The current culture of embarrassment to discuss pay should be replaced with one that allows open and honest discussion on the topic.

Joining a union has been shown to decrease the pay gap [3, 6] which helps provide advice and support.

Another possible solution is to treat men and women differently. However this runs contrary to laws addressing equality of opportunity like the Equality Act 2010.

The UK Government are taking the topic very seriously. Their March 2015 report [18] resulted in the Positive Action Pathway [19] being implemented.

“The Pathway is aimed at Civil Servants in the following under-represented groups with the potential to progress at least one grade higher.
  • Women;
  • Minority Ethnic;
  • Disabled; and
  • Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender” [19]
This uses positive action, based on factors outside of individual control, to provide targeted support but does not guarantee promotion.

This is supported by the UN Women's Report, which states:

“Equality should be understood in relation not only to opportunities but also to outcomes. Unequal outcomes may result from indirect as well as direct discrimination, and ‘different treatment’ might be required to achieve equality in practice.” [p24, 3].

However, it is impossible to have both equality of opportunity and outcome, as the report implies.

There is little point fighting discrimination if you can't monitor it. This is solved by the suggestion to force companies to publish gender based information [1, 4, 5]. Going in tandem with this is the concept of quotas. These are a very popular solution [1, 3, 5, 11] with pros and cons [12]. These should help with positive examples and representation [9, 12].

The UN Women's report encouraged the use of quotas:

“Ensure that women are fairly represented at senior and management levels of public sector employment. Quotas can play a part in making this happen.” [p117, 3].

The final suggestion is to create more well paid jobs, tailored to women's needs [9]. This topic was touched on in the section on freeing up women time and money, where it was suggested women are paid for domestic and caring roles within their own household.

The UN Women's report suggests roles that empower women to shape their working environment, providing decent pay for care work, protect those jobs, and provide training, while also ensuring non-manual work is available to women, at equal pay to men. They go onto suggest the can be achieved through improvements to regulations and standards [3].


The Positive Action Pathway provides additional career progression support to everyone, except for non-disabled, Caucasian, cis-gender, heterosexual men, who – regardless of their personal circumstances - are not eligible for the scheme.

This is not a means tested scheme. A wealthy woman with an excellent education can be provided extra support and opportunities whilst a poor man with little education cannot. And yet this is permissible as 'positive action'. This fails our #NounSwap test. It determines who can receive help based not on personal circumstances but on genetic code.

The implementation of gender based analysis must be handled carefully. Many companies employ specialist roles and it is unfair to compare genders within a company without comparing job roles. Breaking the gender analysis down should include clear comparison of skills – showing equal pay for equal work. It should indicate the standard deviation from the average, and what average is being measured.

These published analyses also imply a quota. Although not overtly stated they encourage companies to hire based on gender to improve the company reputation and could encourage illegal practise. This would need to be monitored carefully.

As highlighted on our About Page, EgaFem is fundamentally against the use of quotas because they are against equality of opportunity and do not account for ability or skill. It implies women are incapable of reaching these goals without an unfair advantage. Any woman employed by a company using quotas might question their ability. It may increase hostile attitudes as the concern becomes they were hired for being women, not because they can do the job. This is extremely dis-empowering and could increase the sexism these solutions are trying to eliminate.

Creating women centric jobs, with non-manual work, well paid, equally paid, protected and providing training implies increased legalisation and controls of the Free Market. These companies would either have to increase their prices or be subsidised by the state. They would also have to employ additional personnel to cover possible labour requirements in the roles that women do not wish to perform.


The main solution to discrimination areas are:
  • improve the ability to get justice for discrimination
  • treat people differently, depending on their characteristic rather than their ability or opportunities
  • force companies to provide gender analysis data
  • use quotas
  • provide women centric jobs, tailored to their needs

[1] UK Government request companies publish gendered wage data: accessed 29/08/2015

[2] Wage Gap in Rwanda, Burundi and Nicaragua is almost non existent: accessed 29/08/2015

[3] UN Women Progess Report 2015 – 2016 accessed 29/08/2015

[4] New Republic – How to Equalize the Female Pay Gap accessed 29/08/2015

[5] New Brunswick: The Wage Gap Action Plan 2005-2010 accessed 29/08/2015

[6] Roosevelt Institute: How to Fix the Gender Wage Gap: Going Far Beyond an App accessed 29/08/2015

[7] American Progress: Seven Actions that could shrink the Gender Wage Gap accessed 29/08/2015

[8] Policy.Mic: Norway Has Found a Solution to the Gender Wage Gap That America Needs to Try accessed 29/08/2015

[9] IMF STAFF DISCUSSION NOTE: Women, Work, and the Economy: Macroeconomic Gains from Gender Equity accessed 29/08/2015

[10] Graduating to a Pay Gap The Earnings of Women and Men One Year after College Graduation: accessed 29/08/2015

[11] Quotas in the EU: accessed 29/08/2015

[12] Pros and Cons of Quotas: accessed 29/08/2015

[13] Gender Wage Gap within the same job: accessed 29/08/2015

[14] Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development: Closing the Gender Gap: Act Now accessed 29/08/2015

[15] Oxford Dictionaries definition of discrimination: accessed 10/10/15

[16] Equality Act 2010: accessed 10/10/2015

[17] Positive Discrimination: accessed 10/10/2015

[18] UK Government Report for equality in the Civil Service: accessed 10/10/2015

[19] Positive Action Pathway: accessed 10/10/2015

[20] European Union Committee – Fifth Report. Women on Boards. Report ordered by the House of Lords. Printed 6 November2012. accessed 10/10/2015

[21] Quotas are legal in the UK: accessed 10/10/2015

[22] Quotas are illegal in the UK: accessed 10/10/2015

[23] Difference between positive action and discrimination: accessed 10/10/2015

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