Mind the (Gender Pay) Gap

Thursday, 4 April 2019

In April 2018, around 10,000 UK companies employing 250 or more people were legally required to publish their gender pay gap. Today (4th April 2019) is the time when all private companies and charities must publish their annual review on the gender pay gap.

But before we dive in, let’s cover the fundamentals: What is the gender pay gap? Why is it important? And how does it impact me?

In simple terms, the gender pay gap is the percentage difference between average hourly earnings for men and women. Whilst the Equality Act 2010 makes it a legal requirement to pay men and women the same pay for the same job. The issue of gender pay gap delves much deeper into the gender composition of the workforce and how this divide can result in large pay differentials. In most cases, senior positions are occupied by men. The number of seats for women in the board room has been rather limited. And this means, individuals / men in senior positions are most definitely going to be earning a higher wage than middle managers and juniors - the two levels that females are most likely to hold.

Let's look at the classic air industry example. At low thrills airline, EasyJet professional pilots make up more than 25% of UK employees. On average, a pilot earns around £92,400 per year. Of the number of pilots in the company, around 6% are women. Whereas, if we look at cabin crew (a more female dominated profession in the airline industry), the typical wage is circa £24,800. This is a prime example of the gender pay gap in action. And it is not limited to the airlines industry but across several industries, sectors and countries.

As graduates and young people, we are even more susceptible to the gender pay gap. Figures from the latest DfE figures found that:

  • A year after graduating, women earn around £1,600 less than male counterparts. A typical graduate salary is £18,300 for women and £19,900 for men
  • Three years after graduating this rises to £21,800 for women compared with £24,200 for the men
  • At 10 years, this gap is even more prevalent with the average women earning around £27,100 and £35,100 for the men. **
**Due to limited data, the above figures are in reference to 2015 earnings data.

So, we could just blame society for suppressing women towards lower paying jobs and the historic barriers that women have always faced. Or we could be pragmatic and make a difference. How can we do this? Demand a promotion? Go on a protest strike? Take additional holiday to make up for the lack of pay? Negotiate a pay rise? Change jobs? The chances of the above suggestions are heavily dependent on your role, industry, experience, risk appetite and luck.

What is most important is that girls and women talk to each other about how to maximise their earning potential, be financially savvy and support/advise them in the same way that the men in the 'old boy club' who are receiving higher pay are doing. Open conversation is the best way to tackle the problem. This conversation needs to happen. One way to do this is by joining a trade union, if you have access to one. Although trade unions may be deemed old fashioned and declining in populating amongst the modern professional, joining one can offer you support and advice - strength in numbers is key!

And then of course you can tackle the issue at its root - your workplace. The likely fact is that knocking on your bosses/door and asking them why you're getting paid less than the guy two desks away from you and demanding change, probably isn't going to work. What you can do is hold your workplace to account by starting to ask questions. One of the key pieces of advice I picked up from reading Otegha Uwagba’s Little Black Book: A Toolkit for Working Women was that if your workplace hasn't acknowledged there is an issue, devised a plan to tackle said issue problem and better so, made this clear - they're probably not taking this seriously or trying to conceal the true extent of problem. So, start questioning and challenging the status quo.

To progress towards a working environment where the percentage difference between average hourly earnings for men and women gap narrow sand one day be eliminated (a girl can hope), requires active conversation, increased questioning and scrutiny from both women AND men. Laying the foundations for change is essential and it will be difficult but it is by no means impossible.

We would love to hear more of your views on the gender pay gap – comment below to tell us what you think!

By Maya Prentis

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