Mind the (Gender Pay) Gap

Written by: Reiss Palmer

March 8th brought on a weekend of talks, events and programmes celebrating the success of women for International Women’s Day. Apart from the achievements, talks were hosted focusing on the next steps for women’s equality. One of the issues covered over the weekend was the Gender Pay Gap and the continued disparity in pay between men and women.

The Gender Pay Gap is the term used to describe the difference in average pay between men and women. It is not to be confused with equal pay. In brief, equal pay relates to paying men and woman the same amount to do the same job. This has been a legal requirement since 1970. Under the Equality Act 2010 women are entitled to be paid the same as men who are doing equal work.

The Equality Act 2010 (Gender Pay Gap Information) Regulations 2017 came into force on 6 April 2017. It requires private and voluntary sector employers in the United Kingdom with more than 250 staff to publish a report by the 4th April 2018 specifying their gender pay gap, gender bonus gap and the number of women and men who get a bonus. Public sector organisations are also required to publish a report by the end of March 2018. Companies that have a gender pay gap are encouraged to publish an action plan alongside the figures detailing the steps they plan to take to address the problem. It is estimated that 9,000 British companies will be affected by this regulation, with 1,500 companies already publishing their figures. According to the Office for National Statistics, the UK’s overall median gap is 18.4%. Research carried out by Deloitte suggests that the UK gender pay gap will not close until 2069, unless action is taken now.

As the deadline draws near, more companies have started to release their findings with unsurprising figures showing the disparity between male and female counterparts. One sector to have done this is the legal sector, with the gap between male and female falling around the 20% mark.  

Magic circle firm Linklaters, revealed that the average hourly rate for women is over 23% lower than that for men, with bonus pay for women 57.9% lower. CMS, whose mega-merger makes it the sixth largest outfit in the world by lawyer headcount, published its findings which indicate that despite employing more women, their female employees are paid 17.3% less on average than male employees. And everyone’s favourite, Herbert Smith Freehills, also pay their female employee’s 19% less.

 This is not just limited to the legal sector. Schroders, an asset management company, was the first FTSE 100 Company to publish their findings, which laid bare that female staff were paid on average 33% less than their male counterparts. BBC’s China editor, Carrie Gracie, quit over unequal pay when it was discovered that BBC’s two male international editors earned “at least 50% more” than its two female counterparts.

The UK bank, TSB, revealed a 24% median gap between male and female pay. Helen Rose, chief operating officer at TSB, explained that the gap is not a true representation of the bank at large, but that the bank, by having fewer women in senior management positions, exacerbated the problem.

 Lower representation of women at senior levels is a key factor affecting these figures. It is suggested that this is due to the disproportionate level of responsibilities women take on in regards to family life, the lack of flexi-working opportunities provided by companies, and the “unconscious bias” of male-orientated networks.

 According to figures form PwC and the Law Society, 60% of newly qualified and over 50% of all solicitors are women, with two-thirds of law students being female, yet only 18% of partners in the top ten UK firms are female. Sam Bowman from the Adam Smith Institute suggests that “We have more of a motherhood pay gap than a gender pay gap. That gap can be closed by encouraging men to handle a more equal share of child-rearing time.”

 This is only one solution to solving the gender pay gap issue. Companies must set aspirational goals for women in senior management roles, support women coming back to work after maternity leave, challenge the unconscious bias barrier preventing women from reaching senior positions, and debunk the myth that certain career paths are for men only. Once this has been achieved and women are equally represented at all levels throughout society, public figures such as Baroness Hale of Richmond and Diane Bryant, won’t be seen as the exceptional inspirational goal – but the norm. Celebrated for solely their greatness, and not in part because they broke through the glass ceiling.

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