The publishing of the gender pay gap is intended to hold a mirror up to industrialised sexism, but can it really help change things for the better?

The latest blueskies survey, consulting candidates across the Midlands, has shown that although a third of women are still experiencing inequality in career progression, only 6% of people see the pay gap publication as having impacted them.

Whether the UK’s gender pay gap is slowly narrowing or not, is something of a mystery. Over the past two years businesses above 250 employees have been asked to report on their gender pay gap. However, the results have generated some controversy. The accuracy of the data being questioned and the lack of action plans being blamed for slow progress.

Separately, and since the 1970’s, the gender pay gap has been calculated by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), with results published in the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings. The 2018 report told us the median pay gap, including all employee types, was 17.9% in the UK (8.6% full time only). This means women earn 82p for every £1 earned by men. That has improved, very slowly, since records began.

Whilst progress is happening, it’s slow, and it is very much still the case that a gap remains, one that cannot be wholly explained by factors such as age, education etc, and one that does indicate a bias towards men.

The point of this, of course, is equal opportunity - fair treatment. In other words we are looking to enable women, just as much as men, to reach their full potential at work. Crucially, to give a practical example, this means taking into account the lives people lead beyond the workplace, and in this regard pay gap data is useful.

The pay gap is close to zero for full time workers aged 18-39 years (using the ONS data). But with all employee types in the mix we see the gap widen after the age of 30 years, coinciding with increases in part time working as people start families.

The good news is that evidence is available which shows gender pay gap reporting annually by businesses has had an impact elsewhere in Europe where it has been in place for longer.

We know the publication has helped to close the pay gap by encouraging organisations to hire more women and support their promotion. It has also slowed the wage growth of men, and so had the impact of levelling pay.

Company action plans should:

  • make career progression open to all
  • stop careers stalling when women become mothers
  • encourage shared parental leave
  • create inclusive and fair recruitment processes

This article was first published in the view  - click here to download the full article. 

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