Sexist pay policies have been a contentious issue since the Suffragettes first raised the issue of gender equality and despite legislation in the 1970s it’s an issue that just won’t go away.

I doubt there are many people around today that think women should be paid less than men. The issue comes when we focus on the value applied to different roles.

What the gender pay gap figures reveal (see In focus) isn’t that employers pay women less than men, that’s illegal, it’s that women end up in roles that society value less than the roles than men find themselves in. Picking our way through why that should be is a tricky issue as it involves people’s personal choices, values and circumstances.

The key issues remain, building families and the priorities of businesses. Women are told they are equal members of the workforce but they still do the lion’s share of raising children and keeping house.

If businesses want to welcome mothers back into the workforce they have to put real flexible working in place for men and women. Flexible working does not mean companies making a few concessions so it’s easier for mums to look after their kids.

Despite continual equality legislation the take up of flexible working, such as Shared Parental Leave, is tiny. Three years after SPL was introduced just 2% of couples take it up. The number of stay-at-home dads in the UK is around 230,000 and falling. Optician is about to lose a male staff member for six months on SPL, but if businesses want women in the workplace it’s going to cost.

Optics is in a pretty good place on absolute numbers of women. I wager we are a long way from optometrists’ roles, DO roles and receptionist roles being equally valued. Personally I would place the value on a dedicated stay at home parent equal to any professional but there again perhaps I’m just male, pale and stale.