I agree with you, the physical difference of having a baby is undeniable. But I think England should re think its maternity rights and perhaps give the leave to the child instead of the parent so any nominated person can take the leave, i.e. grandparents/aunts/uncles etc (Although I personally feel its right that the woman should be home with the child until weaning, but real life does not work like that). My step son lives in Norway and they are much more supportive to parents and do not distinguish between mother or father, it is up to the couple to make the decision.
As for pay levels, I have always been up front by the amount I am being paid, Any boss who prefers to hide this info has something to hide, you have to ask yourself, do you really want to work for that type of company? Again it comes back to knowing and believing in your worth, and insist on transparency, as this appears to be the latest buzz word.
This discussion will go on forever as we are all different and society attitudes change all the time. Work at something you love and you will never work a day in your life Have fun, I know I will.