There was much fanfare last week when Holly Willoughby’s apparent ‘huge £200k pay rise’ meant she’d finally be earning the same as her This Morning co-host, Phillip Schofield. The closing of this pay gap was hailed by some as a victory for womankind, but it seemed a travesty to me. After all, why had there been such a mighty imbalance to begin with? What’s worse, though, was that the whole saga highlighted a bigger problem with feminism: its obsession with equality.
The reality is that Willoughby isn’t equal to Schofield. She’s better than him – in a commercial sense – and therefore deserves to earn more. If you doubt me, just take a look at the numbers on their respective social media accounts. On Twitter, Schofield trails behind Willoughby by three million followers. It’s a similar story on Instagram, where Willoughby has nearly double Schofield’s 1.3 million. Yes, it’s only social media. But followers count and can tell us a lot about a person’s popularity. On a show like This Morning, Holly Willoughby’s popularity online inevitably means that she is a bigger draw for viewers than the man sitting on the sofa next to her.
So in reportedly winning an equal salary to her male counterpart, Willoughby has appeared to make the mistake many women have made before her: she has sold herself short. Yet the current focus on ‘gender pay parity’ means Willoughby won’t be the last woman to do so. It’s true that feminism has played an important role in the battle for equality. But every now and again it’s still OK to admit that women can be better than men.
Last week’s GCSE results – which saw girls widen the gap over boys in getting top grades – prove exactly this point. No one tells school children or university students to aim for ‘gender grade parity’. What an awful idea. If only we could think of salaries as an exam mark, we might be more brave about beating everyone else.
So it’s time for feminism to move away from its preoccupation with equality. It should be competitive. Katy Perry – annoying as she is – has the right idea. Having recently been paid a reported £20m to star on American Idol, the pop star wasn’t shy about her earnings. Instead, she boasted that she ‘got paid, pretty much, more than any guy that’s been on that show’. Forget parity; let’s beat the boys.