Women and Wages: Why Does The Gender Pay Gap Does Still Exist?

by - 3:05 PM

Around nine thousand firms have been required to calculate their gender pay gap and publish their findings this year, and with big companies revealing their figures, the gender pay gap is a major talking point across the UK. The gender pay gap reflects the different average hourly salaries earned by men and women, with the percentage difference between average hourly earnings. Unlike pay inequality which compares the wages of men and women doing the same job - a gender pay difference at a company is not illegal, but could reflect the discrimination of women in the workplace in the modern day. The average gender pay gap across all medium and large-sized companies is now 8.2%, as measured by median pay. In other words men typically earn over 8% more per hour than women.

What is the difference between the gender pay gap and equal pay?
The pay gap isn't the same as equal pay. Equal pay means that men and women in the same employment who perform equal work, must receive equal pay. This was set out in the Equality Act 2010 and has been a legal requirement for 47 years. Under the Equal Pay Act 1970, and then more recently, the Equality Act 2010 it is against the law to pay people unequally due to their gender. The gender pay gap on the other hand is a measure of the difference between men’s and women’s average earnings across an organisation or the labour market. For example, a company might have a gender pay gap if a majority of men are in top jobs, despite paying male and female employees the same amount for similar roles.

Why is there a gender pay gap?
The gender pay gap is a complex issue with a number of factors all playing a part. Research suggest that one cause is caring responsibilities; women often care for young children or elderly relatives meaning they're more likely to work in part-time roles- these are often lower paid and have fewer opportunities for career progression. A study at Princeton University also found the gender wage gap being a result of bearing children; a sharp decline in women’s earnings is seen after the birth of their first child with no comparable salary drop for men. The cumulative effect of this is significant- women often end up earning twenty percent less than their male counterparts over the course of their careers. Other factors that can result in the gender pay gap that we see include discrimination. While protestors and decision makers are trying to rule out discrimination in the workplace it does still exist; research shows that one in nine new mothers were either dismissed, made redundant or treated so poorly they felt they had to leave their job. This can create a gap in experience, leading to lower wages when women return to work. Men also tend to take up the majority of the most senior roles at a company, which are the highest paid.

How can we resolve the gender pay gap issue?
There are a number of ways we can go about tackling the gender pay gap. The first would be to design policies, systems and environments that allow us to make better decisions, and therefore take the bias out of workplaces, schools and societies. We need to eliminate things like gendered language from job advertisements, deploy structured job interviews which are fairer and put more importance on an flexible workplace culture which can allow women to manage their care commitments along with their career. Companies being required to submit data about their gender pay gap is also a positive step, being aware of the problem means we can start looking at ways to put it right. 

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