Is Britain Starting To Bridge The Gender Pay Gap?


This month’s release of the ONS’s Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings suggest that Britain is beginning to bridge the gender pay gap. Admittedly, it’s far from where it needs to be but the growth since 2009 is promising. The ONS shows that the difference between men’s and women’s full-time median hourly pay is now 9.4% – down from 9.6% last year and 17.4% in 1997.

The gender pay varies massively depending how many hours people work each week and the type of role they are in. A significant development is that women actually earn more in part time roles than their male colleagues. The study says that for jobs where the number of paid hours worked by an employee is between 10 and 30, more women work in these jobs and the gender pay gap is in favour of women. The introduction of the National Living Wage (NLW) of £7.20 an hour for adults has helped increase wages at the bottom end of the earnings scale for both sexes.

However, this can’t be said for the world of full time employment. The trend turns on it’s head when looking at employees working over 30 hours per week. Becoming marginally closer throughout the majority of pay groups, the gap remains at around 20% for higher earners in full time employment. Critics argue that this growth is not quick enough and that it will still take decades to reach parity.

Why does the pay gap exist?

It’s all well and good discussing the statistics, but in order to move forward we have to ask why it exists in the first place? Frequently, women earn less than men for doing jobs of equal value. One of the main causes is the way women’s competences are valued compared to men’s. In addition the evaluation of performance, and hence pay level and career progression, may also be biased in favour of men. For example, where women and men are equally well qualified, more value can be attached to responsibility for capital than to responsibility for people.

It is often argues the women are too afraid to ask for the pay increases they deserve. In fact, men and women ask for pay increases at the same rate, according to a new study. Using data collected from 4,600 Australian workers across more than 800 employers, the study from the University of Wisconsin in the US and the University of Warwick and Cass Business School in the UK found “no difference” in the likelihood of asking between the two genders. Study co-author Andrew Oswald said that Australia was the “natural” testing place for these theories because “it is the only country in the world to collect systematic information on whether employees have asked for a rise [in pay]”.

The studies co-author Dr Amanda Goodall a professor at Cass Business School of the City University of London says “young women today are negotiating their pay and conditions more successfully than older females, and perhaps that will continue as they become more senior.” We hope that this trend will continue and that the encouragement and support from senior management to their young women employees will help to bridge the pay gap sooner than anticipated.


Hannah Ryle (Employer Brand Consultant, JobHoller)

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