1 in 2 and 77.7p - gender, disability, violence and pay gaps

Image by Royal Art Lodge
Image by Royal Art Lodge

This post is the first in a series briefly looking at feminism and disability, analysing the impact of disability on gendered pay gaps and domestic abuse.

Trigger warning: discuses violence against women.

Submitted by Ramona on August 14, 2013

There are more disabled women than men in the UK. In 2010/11, there were 6.1 million disabled women (20%) and 5.4 million men (18%). 6.1 million women, 20%. And yet, to listen to mainstream UK feminism, you would hardly know it.

This post is the first in a series briefly looking at feminism and disability. It will focus on 2 key statistics that are frequently used by feminist campaigners:

  • that 1/4-1/6 women will experience abuse in her lifetime

  • that women earn 85p for men’s £1

What we find when we look at disabled women’s experiences (again, that’s 20% of women in the UK) is that these figures are gross underestimations of both the prevalence of violence against disabled women and the wage gap forced upon us.

VAWG1 and disability

  • “Research consistently shows that women with disabilities regardless of age, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or class, are assaulted, raped, and abused at a rate two times greater than women without disabilities. (Sobsey, 1994; Cusitar, 1994)” – ref
  • “The risk of being physically assaulted for an adult with developmental disabilities is 4-10 times higher than for other adults. (Sobsey, 1994; Cusitar 1994.)” ref
  • “Some people with disabilities have other experiences which put them at more risk to be exploited, e.g., the culture of institutionalisation. Often, the disability service system does not offer those who need support the choice of where and with whom one lives, the freedom to come and go at will, or the opportunity to make simple decisions over one’s bodily functions, such as when to eat or bathe.” ref
  • Women’s aid outlines particular ways in which disabled women are vulnerable to physical, sexual, psychological and financial abuse – and makes the point that “Getting away from abuse is often harder for disabled women because access to help and support is often controlled by the abuser.”

Despite this, according to a Women’s Aid study of local domestic violence services (2008) – (the summary of which – first link – is only 8 pages long and well worth a read.)

  • only “38% of organisations offered some form of specific services to disabled women.”
  • “Only three [of 133] projects had disabled staff in post.
  • “27% of domestic violence organisations made attempts to reach disabled women through publicity, talks or local partnership working with organisations for disabled people.”
  • “Some projects had specially adapted accommodation or facilities and a few offered fully accessible housing, but many were not accessible at all.”
  • “There was a tendency for organisations to interpret disability access solely in terms of wheelchair access, whereas services need to be accessible to all women (including those with sensory impairments).”
  • “94% were aware of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) and were making attempts to make properties accessible, although 76% stated that they were not yet compliant.”

The disability wage gap and gender

According to the Fawcett Society, for every £1 a man takes home, a woman takes home 85p – 14.9% less than men.

However, “recent research has found that when compared to non disabled men, disabled men have a pay gap of 11%, and disabled women of 22%.”

Which you can see in the table below showing pay gap on the basis of gender and disability. (from here)

According to poverty.org (2011):

In term of proportions, one in five female employees – and one in ten male employees – were paid less than £7 per hour.

(see graph below)


For both full-time and part-time work, the proportion of employees with a work-limiting disability who are low paid (earning less than £7 per hour) is higher than that for employees without a work-limiting disability, by around five percentage points for full-timers and ten percentage points for part-timers.

In the graph below, disabled women (excluding part-time employment) represent the group with the highest proportion of employees earning less than £7 an hour for full-time employment, at over 20%. There is a clearly demonstrated wage gap between men and women and disabled and non-disabled, with disabled women in full-time employment being twice as likely as non-disabled men in full-time employment to be earning less than £7 an hour.

Moreover, as demonstrated in the graph below, the lower the level of qualification, the greater the gap between disabled and non-disabled workers.

So disabled women are twice as likely to be abused in their lifetime and earn nearly 7p less per £1 than non-disabled women. And yet we never hear about these statistics. Why?

Originally posted at Zedkat's blog.

  • 1violence against women and girls



10 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Ramona on August 14, 2013

I really enjoyed this article and I'm looking forward to the follow up, I guess it shouldn't surprise me since my disability got to the point where I had to stop working full time and saw my income sliced in half (ouch) but I'd not really joined the dots and I wasn't aware of the extent of the pay gap for disabled people and disabled women in general. The stuff about domestic violence services is shocking, and of course I imagine the majority of what drives that is lack of funding but fucking hell how depressing.

Also, Zedkat - I struggled to find a picture to illustrate this so if the main picture is not to your liking, let me know and I'll change it. To...I dunno :/


10 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by karmabum on August 14, 2013

Really interesting article - especially for me, as a disabled woman. I would be interested to know the figures comparing abuse towards disabled and non-disabled men. Are they also twice as likely to suffer domestic abuse? I would suspect that to be so, if not even higher.
Thanks for posting this.


10 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Zedkat on August 14, 2013

The picture is ace - was just thinking how apt it is :)


10 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Steven. on August 14, 2013

There's a lot I want so about this article, but haven't got time now but just wondered say thanks for writing/posting it, it's really good and will comment more later!


10 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by RedEd on August 16, 2013

Lot's of numbers to get my head round: will have to read it through a couple more times, but just wanted to join the others in saying this is a really useful article.


10 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Steven. on August 19, 2013

So yeah now I've got a bit more time this is a good article, and I'm grateful to the author.

As a disabled male worker, this is a subject close to my heart. At the council where I work I try to raise issues related to disability as much as possible.

In fact, probably the majority of the individual cases where I represent people (as a union rep) are disabled women (well to be more specific they are mostly BME disabled women). In fact one of my members has just been fired in a way which I think is directly discriminatory both on the grounds of disability and gender.

Mostly, they are subjected to underperformance procedures or sickness absence management procedures, which can both end up ultimately with dismissal.

Furthermore, in the recent rounds of cuts, disabled workers have been twice as likely to be made redundant as non-disabled workers. (That said, I have been unable to determine if this is because of discrimination, or the fact that more older workers take voluntary redundancy, and more older workers are more likely to be disabled.)

With the pay gap, I can totally see how this could arise. I know personally, I'm too afraid to apply for other jobs, as I'm worried that when employers realise I'm disabled (my disability is invisible) and realise they have to make adjustments which may cause them some hassle, they will just get rid of me early on before I have proper employment rights protections. I know that many of my disabled colleagues feel the same way. So this keeps you in lower-wage jobs, as it only leaves internal promotions available to you. Which can be few and far between, and in these you can be subjected to more direct discrimination as they are aware of your disability already. Of course you will also be less likely to get promoted if you have ever stood up for your rights or come into conflict with management which disabled employees do more often, both in those procedures above and also in requesting reasonable adjustments.

In terms of why the stuff you are talking about isn't written about more. Well, in a way I can understand that.

As part of my union role I do a lot of work requesting information from management/making freedom of information requests etc, which I then analyse for equalities data. To try to identify patterns of discrimination etc.

Now, a big problem with it is say I have a set of data which I want to look at with regard to your main primary equalities criteria which would be:
- gender (at least two variables)
- ethnicity (at least eight variables)
- age (usually six age brackets or more)
- disability (two or more variables - if you want to distinguish between mental and physical disabilities, say)

So, altogether it is a lot of stuff to compare. That's at least 18 variables. Which is doable of course.

But if you start trying to combine different areas of discrimination, then it hugely increases the amount of data crunching you need to do.

Because if you look at almost any area like pay, when you combine two or more sets of oppressed characteristics, you will see the level of oppression increase (i.e. black women are paid less than white women and black men etc).

So if you want to look at each set of two oppressed characteristics and compare them, then you just have to do exponentially more processing. So instead of comparing 18 variables, you are actually comparing 18 x 18 = 324 variables (if my maths is right; if it's not then it's still a large number). And this just isn't feasible most of the time.

That said, this isn't an excuse for ignoring the experiences of disabled women, at all. And I think it's very important for us to keep emphasising pointing out discrimination in all areas of life, including compound discriminations. And any movement like feminism or disability rights should take into account all of the intersecting oppressions within each group.