Anyway, the author, Sam Friedman, makes use of this data to look at how, and more importantly why, working-class women face a “multiplicative earnings penalty in Britain’s elite occupations”. Multiplicative, meaning that the pay gap faced by working-class women isn’t just the class pay gap plus the gender pay gap (which would be an “additive” gap), but is in fact MORE than the gender and class pay gap combined. Which is precisely the point of doing intersectional analysis.
Working-class women, for example, earn on average £7500 a year less than women from professional/managerial backgrounds, who in turn earn £11,500 less than men from professional/managerial backgrounds. And strikingly this “double disadvantage” pay gap is £2000 a year higher than simply adding the gender and class pay gap together.
Anyway, this specific analysis of the Civil Service indicates that while “the class origins of male and female civil servants are largely similar, there is tentative evidence that women from working-class backgrounds are more under-represented in senior grades.”
Following 104 interviews with top-grade civil servants, the paper’s author, Sam Friedman, concludes that this is likely partly due to differences in how working-class men versus women feel able to identify with a positive working-class identity: men are able to draw on a “working-class boy done good” narrative in a way that enables them to resist the Civil Service’s middle-class norms and even “‘brand’ themselves as senior leaders with a unique perspective.”
Working-class women, however, for whom there is no equivalent aspirational narrative, feel compelled to hide their origins. As a result, even though the numbers of working-class men and women in the Civil Service are fairly similar, men are more likely to subjectively identify as being from a “low socio-economic background.“
Significantly, many women addressed this in spontaneous comparisons they drew with male colleagues. Becca, for example, explained that whilst “even after 20 years” in the Civil Service there wasn’t “a single women” she would “identify as having a working-class background,” she is “surrounded by men of a working-class nature.” This is partly about what is valued in her area of [the Department of Transport] – a certain “macho hands-on knowledge of working on the railways” – but also more generally about the ability of working-class men to “trade” on a certain “salt-of-the-earth authenticity” that “everyone seems to respond well to.” Some male managers from privileged backgrounds, she joked, even try and emulate this, putting on “mockney accents” to appear more ordinary and down to earth. Others like Jackie similarly grappled with this relational sense that men are able to derive greater value from displaying a working-class identity:
There’s something I think about being a bit laddish working class that is almost quite a nice thing for middle class men to be, like a lads-will-be-lads bantery way of dealing with people. Whereas women, that doesn’t seem to happen…I mean there is no benefit to being a working class girl, like a bit of a rogue, is there? You get on by looking good, by behaving in the right way, and as much as we’d all like to think that’s all moved on, in lots of ways it hasn’t…I mean there are no traits that I can display as a positive demonstration…like there isn’t a working class woman’s banter, is there, that I could kind of bond with other women with
This results in working-class women coming across as more awkward, less confident, and less visible than their male counterparts and may, Friedman argues, account for their relative lack of seniority in the ranks of the British Civil Service. And the lack of awareness of the gendered nature of class, means it is being incorporated into diversity agendas in a largely gender insensitive way:
This “social mobility” discourse arguably constructs an ideal practitioner unfettered by ascribed class privilege, and in so doing, arguably demands that employees find a way to articulate a meritocratically “worthy” or “deserving” story of career success. This may be further contributing to a partial revaluation of markers of working-class identity, especially those that signal humble origins or agentic achievement against the odds. Here again, though, our findings echo the work of Loveday (2014, 2016) in stressing that it is largely symbols, markers, and expressions of white male working-classness that appear to effectively signal this romantic ascension from humble origins.
Naturally, in a move readers of Invisible Women will recognise, the solutions to these problems as reported by working-class female civil servants tend to be of your classic "fix the women” variety as opposed to fixing a system that does not account for them and therefore, however unintentionally, discriminates against them.
So that’s nice isn’t it.