Feminism has failed working- class women by focusing too much on gender equality in high profile roles, according to new research.
While the average gap between the earnings of men and women has narrowed in the past 50 years, differences between professional and unskilled women are significantly higher than those between men, a report by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) found.
With or without a university degree, men continue to earn more than their female counterparts. But researchers found that women with a degree born in 1958 earned nearly three times as much (198 per cent) as women in unskilled jobs born in the same year – compared with a difference of less than half (45 per cent) between men in the same groups.
Dalia Ben-Galim, IPPR associate director, said: “While feminism has delivered for some professional women, other women have been left behind. Many of the advances for women at the top have masked inequality at the bottom.
“The ‘break-the-glass-ceiling’ approach that simply promotes ‘women in the boardroom’ has not been as successful in changing family-friendly working culture or providing opportunities for other women to advance.
“Gender still has a strong independent impact on women’s earnings prospects – but class, education and occupational backgrounds are stronger determinants of a woman’s progression and earnings prospects.”
Motherhood was also a key factor, with women who had children earlier seeing their earnings prospects decrease compared with those who postponed forming a family, the study found.
For men the reverse was true, as fathers enjoyed a “fatherhood pay bonus” which saw them earn more than men without children.
The IPPR called for a more progressive parental leave system, more affordable and accessible childcare and better-paid part-time jobs to address these issues.