Equal Pay Day marks the day on which, effectively, women start working for free.
It reflects that a significant gender pay gap (GPG) continues to exist in the UK with women earning, on average, 14 per cent less than men. For women of colour the figure can be much worse, being 26 per cent for Pakistani and Bangladeshi women compared to white men.
Many people confuse GPG with unequal pay so I would like to remind you that “unequal pay” means being paid differently for doing the same or a very similar job. This is illegal though sadly it happens much too frequently with one in five young women polled by Young Women’s Trust reporting that they are being paid less than their male colleagues for similar work. The GPG is an important, if rather crude, measure which shows the average or mean pay rates for men and women within an organisation.
The GPG exists from the moment women start work. Female apprentices are earning eight per cent less than male apprentices, male graduates within a few years are earning substantially more than female graduates and although the GPG increases as women get older the rate among younger women is also growing and last year was 2.2 per cent for those under 30.
Companies with over 250 employees are now required to publish data about their GPG. This data shows that the work women do tends to be paid less. The recent strike in Glasgow shone a bright light on this. Women doing jobs such as cleaning and child care are paid up to £3 per hour less than council staff in areas such as bin collecting and street sweeping. On the news I heard women striking in Glasgow being harangued for joining the protest and leaving vulnerable adults and children without their usual sources of support. Doesn’t this demonstrate that the work they are doing is at least as valuable and crucial as cleaning the streets?
The data also shows that many of the companies with high GPG have large numbers of women in their organisations at lower levels but as levels of seniority increase the proportion of women decreases.
It is good news that larger companies are having to publish their GPG. However there is much more that can be done and I would like to see all employers (no matter their size):
Advertising all roles with a salary. At Young Women’s Trust we are running #saywhatyoupay to encourage all employers to disclose at recruitment what the role will be paid. This prevents an individual’s previous salary being the main determinant of their future salary which always risks disadvantaging women and maintaining the status quo of women being paid less. This transparency will make it much more difficult for employers to get away with paying less for similar roles and also prevents pay decisions being dependent on negotiation skills.
Putting a plan in place to address their gender pay gap. This is not yet obligatory, even for larger companies, but there is nothing to stop companies thinking about what they can do to ensure that there are fair opportunities for women and, if needed, to encourage women to come and work for them. This may mean thinking about how advertisements are worded, how promotions and bonuses are allocated and implementing policies for flexible and part-time working to all staff who request it, men and women.
It’s not rocket science but I fear at the rate we are going I share the view of many young people who think we are more likely to discover aliens than end gender discrimination any time soon.
About the author
Carole is the Chief Executive of the Young Women’s Trust, a charity that supports disadvantaged young women to build their confidence and find work and that campaigns to make the workplace fairer for all women. If you would like to know more about the work they do and how you can support them visit: www.youngwomenstrust.org/get_involved or follow them @YWTrust