Discussing personal finances has proven a taboo topic across the UK for decades, but times are changing. You’re encouraged to mention your salary to co-workers more than ever. Open and honest conversations about your pay at work can give opportunities to negotiate raises and identify unfair treatment.
Your employer will reflect upon multiple factors as they determine your salary. Still, you can challenge their approach if you believe you’ve reasonable grounds, especially since some of the factors considered are out of your hands. While you may sacrifice to gain experience and complete qualifications to improve your employee value, your age and gender can influence your salary equally. Factors you can’t change.
The gender pay gap refers to the difference in average pay between men and women in your workforce. In an easy-to-read guide, here’s everything you need to know about the gender pay gap, including the legalities.
Firstly, What Is The Difference Between The Gender Pay Gap & Equal Pay?
It is too easy to confuse the gender pay gap and equal pay. Equal pay aims to ensure all genders receive the same paycheck if they carry out the same role with a workload of similar value. Directly paying someone unequally because they’re a man or a woman is against the law, but it still happens.
The gender pay gap displays the overall disparity in average male and female salaries across all departments and seniority levels. It considers every person and their earnings to ensure equal opportunities for all genders.
Why Does The Gender Pay Gap Matter?
Publishing figures around the gender pay gap ensures discrimination isn’t occurring in any business. If men or women are earning significantly less, it is an indication there may be a problem. Both male and female employees deserve to be hired, promoted, and valued fairly.
If you notice a shortage of either gender in the workforce or even during interviews, you should take action. You may support training programmes dedicated to diversifying the workforce and helping men or women into industries biassed against their gender.
What Causes The Gender Pay Gap?
No matter what you believe the primary cause for the gender pay gap may be, it is a complex issue. Differences between male and female salaries can be attributed to numerous reasons. It would help if you tried to understand all of them to run a healthy business.
Let’s explore factors that perpetuate the gender pay gap together. We’ll include tips on combatting these problems in the workplace and relevant statistics to educate you.
Reason 1 – Motherhood Requires Time Off
The most popular factor cited in the gender pay gap debate tends to be pregnancy. Women must take maternity leave to care for children, and they’re more likely to opt for a part-time return. Research funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation demonstrates that mothers suffer big long-term pay penalties from part-time working. Lack of wage progression due to part-time working is responsible for a 7.5% wage gap between similarly educated women and men as their first child turns 20.
For some perspective, here is a true-to-life scenario. Picture a graduate working full-time for seven years. Before becoming a mother, she would see her hourly wage rise by 6% if she remained in full-time work for another year. The same qualified individual is likely to see zero progression if she opts instead for part-time employment. Caregiving responsibilities regularly stifle professional development for mothers.
Reason 2 – Traditionally, ‘Feminine’ Jobs Pay Less
Industries that have a history of majority-female workplaces have lower average salaries. For example, the median child care worker salary in the United Kingdom is £23,400. The Lancaster University’s Department for Education Research determined men account for only three per cent of that workforce. On the flip side, it’s estimated that only 1% of Britain’s electricians are female. Despite the female minority in the electrician trade, the average electrician salary in the United Kingdom is £34,000.
As we calculate the overall gender wage gap across the UK, sectors like childcare and social work bring the average female pay down. The male-dominated skilled manual labour industries pay considerably better, increasing men’s average income across the nation.
Reason 3 – Men Dominate Senior Positions
Only eight of the UK’s top 100 companies are headed by women (2019). Across the best performing organisations in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, ninety-two pay a man the highest salary. Even if women are encouraged into lower management positions, the sheer amount of male CEOs in the UK increases the gender wage gap. In an essay for King’s College London, Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic insists we negatively evaluate female leaders even if they perform better. On the whole, we associate leadership with ‘masculine’ features.
One of the reasons we may see this imbalance is purely due to perception. Men outnumber women in leadership because we mistake confidence for competence. If we consciously educate ourselves against this bias, women are more likely to receive rightful promotions.
Reason 4 – Discrimination Still Occurs
Pay discrimination has been against the law since 1963, but it hasn’t been entirely eradicated. Differences in male and female salaries routinely occur, often without employees realising. Workplaces that discourage open discussion of wages can leave employees fearful they’ll lose their jobs if they’re unhappy with their income. On top of this, men are more likely to ask for a pay rise and get more when they do. New laws that force companies to publish their gender wage gap will combat this issue over time since everyone is held accountable for their financial decisions.
Remember, it is illegal for an employer to dismiss you over income discussions. Talking about your salary can help you identify unfair treatment, mainly if conversations occur between opposing genders.
The Gender Pay Gap And The Coronavirus
It is impossible to discuss the gender pay gap in 2022 without considering the impact of the pandemic. The transition from office-based working to roles at home has affected efforts to close the gap between male and female incomes. In 2021, the Office for National Statistics released a report on the Gender pay gap in the UK. This report highlights that the gap widened to 15.4 per cent in 2021, from 14.9 per cent in 2020.
What Has The Coronavirus Taught Us About Gender?
The European Parliament published an article dedicated to understanding the impact of Covid-19 on women. It explained that women made up 76% of the 49 million care workers across the EU. Additionally, women make up 95% of domestic cleaners, 93% of childcare workers, 86% of personal care workers and 82% of cashiers across Europe. Regardless of the heavy reliance on women to uphold healthcare and essential services during the coronavirus, the gender wage gap hasn’t shrunk.
It shouldn’t come as a great surprise that females are still suffering from lower incomes. Despite the enormous contributions of women to European countries in caring positions and retail roles, it is still likely that the higher management of each organisation is male. The hard work, grit and determination of critical workers at a lower level still ultimately benefits the individuals above them.
Women Are More Likely To Uphold Service-Based Roles
Studies by the UN, ILO, Eurostat and EIGE from 2017-2020 show that 84% of working women aged 15-64 are employed in services. Services include childcare, retail, hospitality, and tourism, all industries affected by the pandemic. Therefore, women were at a higher overall risk of facing unemployment during 2020 (even while predominantly upholding national healthcare).
While the UK offered furlough pay to support employees unable to work financially, women are still paying the price for the pause on their jobs. The furlough scheme only provided 80% of the regular monthly income, so earnings decreased immediately. On top of that, female service workers stuck at home have sacrificed two years’ experience in the workforce. The time out will stunt regular progression and pay rises, so it’ll take longer to build a larger salary.
Women Are More Likely To Absorb Parenting Responsibilities
Homeschooling became the new normal for the UK during the pandemic with schools closing. Mumsnet ran a survey to try and understand the impact of Covid-19 on mothers’ mental health, and the results are telling. 79% of over 1,500 female participants stated that the responsibility for homeschooling fell primarily to them. In turn, they couldn’t work uninterrupted. 70% of mothers in paid work from March 2020 said they’d struggled to balance work and childcare at home.
Furthermore, 29% of those mothers in paid work expect to have their income reduced in the next six months. 10% expect to leave or be forced out of the labour market in the same period. Women need to reduce their hours to accommodate caring for their children, reinforcing the gender pay gap. Mothers themselves have stated that it isn’t impacting fathers in their household nearly as harshly.
What Can Be Done About The Gender Pay Gap?
In 2022, women ought to earn equally to men. Everyone can complete valuable tasks, even if specific industries suit separate genders better. After all, both girls and boys must attend school in the UK. They’re provided with the same educational opportunities to support their entrance into the workforce. It’s time to consciously attack gender bias and promote equality in every area of life. Here are just a handful of the steps we can take to reduce the gender pay gap.
Increase Paternity Benefits For Male Employees
One way to reduce the strain on women is to support them through motherhood. If men are allocated more attractive paternity pay, they’ll have the time and the resources to provide childcare. It may seem counterproductive to improve the parenting life for employed men to empower women. Still, fathers can relieve a lot of the stress traditionally left to mothers after pregnancy.
The government only enforces one or two weeks of consecutive leave to eligible new fathers. Any additional time away from work is down to the organisation’s discretion. A fortnight is unbearably short, especially since recovering from delivery tends to take mothers at least six weeks! An absent partner makes postpartum difficulties even harder in navigating. That struggle can take a toll on women’s mental health for months. Mothers without adequate support may never make a total return to the workplace. This downfall perpetuates the gender pay gap further.
Encourage Open Discussions About Salaries In The Workplace
Employees are only able to hold management accountable if they identify mistreatment. Men, women and gender-fluid workers should be taught to disclose their income in appropriate circumstances. Conversations about wages are healthy, and they’ll only cause resentment or disappointment if there is inequality in practice. In reality, every business should seek independent HR overseers to protect their staff and inform fair salaries. Still, corporations aware they’re breaking the law won’t volunteer to work alongside anybody who can expose their wrongdoings.
As an employee, you must avoid accepting roles without thorough research. Do not sign a contract that prohibits you from discussing your pay! While it is not legally binding since banning income conversations is against the law, it is indicative of the environment you’re entering. If you’re already within a job where you believe you’re being paid unfairly, contact your UNISON rep to negotiate an equal pay deal. If appropriate conditions aren’t met, your case could reach an employment tribunal. A public case of unfair salaries won’t reflect well upon your employer, so a successful claim will enforce fair pay or signify the end of their business.
Support Charities Who Train Women For Leadership
Women Leaders UK is a registered charity established to recognise outstanding women, promote and strengthen women’s leadership, and support gender equality and diversity. Currently, the organisation is formalising a mentoring programme aimed at any woman who aspires to be a leader. Suppose all businesses partner with charities to equip women for high management positions. In that case, the gender pay gap will steadily decrease. You can support the cause, whether you choose to contribute financially, or you learn and introduce new training schemes in your organisation to facilitate female management.
It is critical employees recognise your business’ passion toward seeing women achieve. Your support for female leadership charities should be public. Your dedication to encouraging women in your workforce should align with your declaration. Should you fail in addressing unconscious gender bias during hiring or promotions, you won’t benefit from your donations or training schemes. High-flyers with leadership capabilities aren’t exclusively male. You ought to be able to confidently declare that you provide equal opportunities for both genders in the workplace.
Deliver Lessons On Equality During Education
Social conditioning affects our perception of male and female capabilities, and it begins in our formative years. Equality and diversity lessons in primary school could be crucial in attacking the gender wage gap over time. Suppose we’re raised to believe that both men and women are equipped to handle challenging leadership roles. In that case, we’ll reduce the gender bias during hiring and promotions. Still, you needn’t leave the responsibility of teaching down to school! Learn how to teach your child about equality, and answer any questions they may have about gender from an objective standpoint. Modelling behaviour for children has long-lasting effects, so if you’re considerate, your children will likely be too.
Conversations around equality and diversity can develop throughout the primary school years, to secondary and sixth form. Education is a continuous process, and everybody can learn how to make the world a more inclusive place. As an adult, you can encourage healthy debates about what measures should be taken to protect different genders, races, and religions. Constant thoughtful communication about gender equality can develop your friends’, family and co-workers’ viewpoints.
What Will Reducing The Gender Pay Gap Impact?
Most organisations are aiming to reduce the gender pay gap. But why? Other than different wages for opposing genders seeming unfair, why is tackling the gender pay gap vital to modern development?
Employers Receive A Better Standard Of Work
Workers who believe they’re undervalued and discriminated against will experience low morale, reduced motivation and, in turn, deliver an unimpressive output. The morale effects of pay inequality guarantee women won’t perform at their full potential! However, you can rectify poor motivation levels if you dedicate time and effort to improving pay equality. Your firm’s productivity will rapidly improve, the happiness of your workforce will skyrocket, and you’ll see significant success.
Partnering with female leadership and minority support charities acts as an investment. As your workforce feels valued and empowered, they’ll perform at their highest capacity! Productive, attentive and stable employees will allow your business to thrive.
Rates Of Poverty In Women Will Decline
3 million women and girls live in extreme poverty across Europe and Northern America. Worldwide, the number has reached 388 million in 2022. As well as experiencing enormous hunger, women in poverty are at an increased risk of trafficking. Read ‘poverty and it’s contribution to human trafficking’ to educate yourself on the importance of stable careers and safe housing for women worldwide. Remember that the gender pay gap is a global problem, but we must address it individually in the UK. Protect the health and wellbeing of our female population by ensuring them stable careers with protected incomes.
Women Are Better Equipped To Leave Unhappy Marriages
Promoted women are more likely to divorce. Increased financial independence reduces the reliance wives feel on their husbands! They can safely escape toxic and abusive relationships by funding their divorce lawyers personally. Even respectful and healthy marriages that come to a close after a promotion can be explained by societal expectations that men must be the breadwinners. Boys have been raised to believe they can’t earn less while absorbing household responsibilities.
Suppose we successfully reshape our male and female capability perceptions and recognise that everybody can equally thrive in a corporate world. In that case, we won’t see dated, misogynistic beliefs ruining otherwise enjoyable relationships.
Different Minorities, Sexualities And Abilities Receive Protection
Though women can experience the workplace similarly, certain groups face unique challenges. Close The Gap explains groups commonly discriminated against: disabled women, black and minority ethnic women, transgender women, and lesbian or bisexual women. Attacking the gender pay gap also requires organisations to consider how to protect neurodiverse employees, homosexual employees, black employees, and more. All women receive equal salaries regardless of their other characteristics, ensuring a diverse and inclusive workplace.
The movement toward a more understanding, empathetic and compassionate workspace won’t cease after pursuing gender equality. A truly fair and just business will also dedicate effort to supporting different races, sexualities, religions and ages.
Financial And Emotional Pressure On Men Decreases
Improving the average income of women across the UK also benefits men in the long term. Studies conducted years ago, in 2016, determined men who act as breadwinners face negative health effects. Spouses and partners sharing the load mean men face less pressure, and they can pursue careers for enjoyment without extreme financial repercussions. As wives, mothers, and girlfriends contribute equally to household bills and responsibilities, relationship satisfaction will increase while male stress is halved.
As women earn more throughout their careers, they’ll also reduce male stress in the workplace. Since they won’t feel undervalued and unappreciated, female employees will maintain productivity levels and absorb workload that would otherwise be left to men.
The Conclusion On The Gender Pay Gap
Without conscious action and determination from all businesses and the educational sector, the gender pay gap will take an estimated 135 years to close. Males and females, and employers and employees alike, are responsible for curating and upholding a welcoming, diverse workplace where everybody receives equal treatment. Education will play a critical part in reshaping female careers across the future. Still, lessons needn’t be delivered from schools alone. Parents must shape their children to understand the importance of equality and diversity.
Total fairness is achievable with dedication, and businesses should be held accountable as they discriminate against the vulnerable – whether knowingly or unknowingly.