The Gender Play Gap

Happy Equal Pay Day!

Or more accurately Happy US Equal Pay Day. April 13 is Equal Pay Day in America; the moment in 2021 by which, on average, a woman in the US would have finally caught up with her male counterpart’s wages from 2020. So, 3 ½ months extra work to earn the same amount. Grim, huh?  

In the UK, we do it the other way round:  we celebrate (?) Equal Pay Day as the day from which women effectively start working for free: in 2020 it was 20 November. So, we only have to work an extra 6 weeks. Go Team GB!

But, whichever way you do it, we’ve got data that shows us that Gender Pay Gap is still a very real thing. Since 2017, employers in the UK with more than 250 people have had to publish their stats on mean and median pay for men and women. This has prompted some eye-catching revelations – remember the BBC “top talent” and Carrie Gracie’s resignation?. But in less newsworthy businesses, employers have still been required to shine some light on who the winners and losers are within their pay structures (spoiler alert: women are rarely come out on top).

But here’s the thing. At least when it comes to the Gender Pay Gap, someone is collecting and publishing the data. With the Gender Play Gap, not so much. Well actually, not at all.  The National Lottery has invested more than £950m in public parks and cemeteries over the last 25 years. It has helped transform over 900 parks across every corner of the UK. That is a fantastic investment. And it is reasonable to assume that a decent chunk of that investment is focussed on facilitating play for teenagers.

But so far as we can tell, there’s no data about whether these shiny new play facilities are being used by teenage boys or teenage girls. A lot of money is being spent, but no one seems to be asking the perfectly reasonable question: where is the evidence about who is using what is being built?

Of course, one answer is that collecting data is awfully expensive. We know: it is. But the road to  gender equality has been littered by the refrain “of course, we support the principle of equality, but it’s just that we can’t afford it at the moment”. And given the long-term consequences of the inactivity of teenage girls, the short term savings made by not collecting data now are going to be outweighed by the health costs later.

So, as we use today to shine a light on Equal Pay, let’s also shine a light on the need to collect decent data about the play facilities we have for teenagers, use that information to illuminate our thinking and get to a place when we can celebrate Equal Play Day.

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