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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 July, 2003, 13:40 GMT 14:40 UK
Britons 'accept' pay sexism
Women sorting prawns
Women are still "segregated" into low paying jobs
Many Britons believe the pay gap between men and women is the result of "natural differences" between the sexes - and not discrimination, a report has suggested.

The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) conducted the research to mark the 75th anniversary of women winning equal voting rights.

The small-scale study of just 35 people found many people thought choice, rather than discrimination, led to low pay and more domestic duties for women.

For instance, one young man said the lack of women in management was a "natural" result of the fact that women bore children.

Women working full-time earn 19% less than men
75% of women work in the five lowest paid sectors
Women hold less than 10% of the top positions in FTSE 100 companies, the police, the judiciary and trade unions
Retired women have on average just over half the income of retired men
Source: Equal Opportunities Commission

"If you've got women who take time off to look after children or work part-time there's naturally going to be a problem of making it through to higher management level," he told the study.

There is currently a 19% pay gap between men and women in the UK. This gap grows into a huge gulf by retirement age.


Yet women often did not recognise their own experiences of discrimination in the workplace, and if so did not know how to tackle it, the EOC report found.

They may fear being seen as a troublemaker, or simply be unaware of where to turn to for help, it said.

"I didn't get the job because I'm a woman or a Protestant. But that's the way of the world and I had to accept it," said one Glaswegian woman.

More flexibility at work for both men and women
Massive increase in the number of affordable childcare places
Pensions system that does not penalise women for looking after children
Source: EOC

The Talking Equality report said pay discrimination was usually not intentional by the employer.

It was more a result of a complex mix of factors including ideas about family responsibilities, the "segregation" of women into low paid sectors, a lack of flexible working and the long UK working hours.

The commission said inequality was too complex for an individual to tackle.

It repeated a call for employers to help, by conducting equal pay reviews to check whether they were paying women fairly.

The report was carried out by the Future Foundation think tank and was described by the commission as "a small-scale study providing some anecdotal evidence on people's views on sex equality".

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