07Mar

The Gender Pay Gap: Are Women Equal to Men?


gender pay gap and wage equalityInternational Women’s Day on the 8th March marks the equality rights and achievements of women across the world. But in the world of work, do women see that reflected in their pay packets, compared to their male counterparts? Is there a gender pay gap?

The answer is a resounding ‘no’, according to government figures reported by the BBC (themselves under fire). They revealed that, out of 1,057 companies with 250+ employees:

  • A whopping 74% of UK firms pay higher salaries to male employees than to females
  • As few as 15% of UK firms actually pay more to female employees
  • In terms of equal pay, only a tiny 11% of UK firms reported no difference between the salaries paid to either gender

Those stats strongly suggest that there’s still a long way to go before women get true pay equality.

What is the gender pay gap?
This is the calculated difference between average hourly earnings between men and women.

Research by the Office of National Statistics revealed that the gender pay gap for full-time employees stood at 9.1% in favour of men in 2017, the lowest figures since their records first began in 1997.

This means that men earn over 9% more per hour than women, even if the gap has reduced over the years with tighter legislation.

Organisations that support women’s rights believe that there’s still so much more that needs to be done and that little has actually changed. Vivienne Hayes, of the Women’s Resource Centre, believes that progress had moved at a ‘snail’s pace’. The Fawcett Society also believes that progress has ‘stalled’.

Even though a gender pay gap at a company isn’t illegal, there is a concern that discrimination or bias is at play – and it’s apparent in some industries and occupations more than others.

Unfriendly industries
Certain industries and occupations still show a significant problem. One of them is the financial sector, where the same research revealed a 32% pay gap between genders in roles such as financial managers and directors, a 29% pay gap in financial institution management roles, and even 25% pay gap between genders in financial account manager roles.

The pay disparity is considerably larger in the manufacturing industry; a gap as wide as 39% was reported. In both cases, it was more apparent in the City of London and Tower Hamlets, given their deep-rooted financial and industrial connections.

Naming and shaming: companies revealing their inequalities
According to figures coming out of the government’s gender pay gap report, Easyjet have admitted a 45% pay gap – which is put down to most of their pilots being male (and on around £92k a year) and most of their cabin crew are female (and on just below £25k on average).

Meanwhile, Virgin Money have a 38% pay gap; at the Bank of England, men are paid on average 24% more than female colleagues.

One of the few companies to show the reverse is the Three Rivers Council, where the hourly rate is 42% higher for women than for men.

The British Museum has a staggering 0% gender pay gap.

And these are just a few of the companies who’ve volunteered this information so far; not all of them who should have done so, actually have. The current legislation requires that all companies (with over 250 employees) must report their gender pay gap to the government by 4 April this year.

A sensitive issue
Charles Cotton, senior performance and reward advisor at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) said: “Some businesses may be concerned about reputational issues, which may be holding them back from reporting early”.

While Cotton believes this is because of the ‘embarrassment’ this could cause to their business to reveal their figures, Carolyn Fairbairn, director general of the Confederation of British Industry, believes that it’s more of a painful data-gathering issue.

“I think this is genuinely quite difficult data to find, it is often sitting on different systems and firms are working very hard towards that deadline”. Anyone who’s ever tried to get different, siloed teams talking to each other will understand.

Looking a bit deeper
Representation throughout the business is what the figures are holding up a mirror to – but it’s wise to look at the context of the business.

Retailers like Phase Eight (with its 64.8% gender pay gap) highlight the need to address gender distribution at board level, in head offices, and on the shop floor.

Women might be paid the same as men for the same roles, but are there enough in senior, higher-paid positions? And it shouldn’t pass without comment that class and ethnicity are also overlapping factors.

It’s clear that there are deeper problems to fix. Both women and men need to feel welcomed into industries that are viewed as traditionally ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’. Women need to be better represented at the higher-paid end of the spectrum.

No matter how hard it is to find the data, you can walk through the office and peer into meeting rooms. You’ll be able to see where the faultlines are in your own workplace.

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