What can be done?
Ann Cairns is executive vice-chair of MasterCard and co-chair of the 30% Club, which aims to boost the number of women in senior leadership.
She says that she sees companies are starting to take their pay gaps seriously, but that there is a need to change the corporate culture which will take a long time.
Dame Helena Morrissey, one of the City's most high-profile women and founder of the Diversity Project, says that some firms are just seeking to comply with the law with "woolly or non-existent" plans to improve. A spokesperson for the Women’s Equality Party adds that the seeds of the gender pay gap are sown from a young age.
“Our education system continues to influence gender norms that lead girls into lower paying jobs that are less valued,” they explained. And Dr Julie Davies of the Manchester Metropolitan University Business School concurs “... women don’t negotiate their salary in their first role due to societal pressures, and so there is a cumulative effect as they move from one job to another. Often women don’t ask for more money and are just grateful to be offered a job.”
Fifty years on from the Equal Pay Act of 1970, campaigning women’s rights charity the Fawcett Society says that one of the many reasons that there is a gender pay gap is because there is still pay discrimination.
Because there is generally not a transparent pay framework, many women don’t know that they are earning less than their male counterparts.To close the gap, employers should:
- Develop a positive action plan to encourage and support women to apply for more senior roles.
- Ensure that part-time and flexible work is available at all levels of the organisation.
- Make paternity leave as generous as maternity leave to encourage men and women to share childcare responsibilities.
- Improve transparency by extending gender pay gap reporting to companies with 100 or more employees.
- Introduce gender pay gap reporting by ethnicity – Fawcett found that the gender pay gap between White men and Black African women and Pakistani & Bangladeshi women was higher than for White women.
- Require employers to publish an action plan to tackle gender pay gaps with meaningful sanctions for non-compliance.