The gender pay gap is a topic that has been widely discussed online and has steadily been gaining traction in terms of popularity and awareness.
Though figures released by the Office of National Statistics for April 2017 revealed that the gender pay gap based on median hourly earnings reached an all time low of 9.1%, it remains a somewhat touchy subject that is rarely brought up or addressed in the workplace despite the significant impact we know that intelligent female workers are having on businesses.
But has the gap widened or reduced in 2018? How has The Equality Act 2010 highlighted gender disparity? How will this affect businesses and which sectors are guilty of gender discrimination and undervaluing their female employees?
Getting to the top doesn’t guarantee equal pay
An article published by CNN revealed the sickening differences between men and women’s salaries once they’d reached top level executive roles. According to analysis from Equilar, out of the 15 highest paid executives in the United States, only two were women. The difference between the highest paid man and the highest paid woman revealed that the male earned more than $203m more than the female.
This shocking discrepancy occurs shortly after CNN shared additional research showing that by 2018, even less women would be leading America’s largest companies. The stats gathered showed a reduction in top level female executives and since the Fortune 500 list shared a record breaking 32 female CEOs in June 2017, by 2018 six of those females had left their jobs or announced their departure, handing their reigns over to predominantly male successors.
The gender pay gap in Britain
Despite currently boasting a female prime minister as well as a female monarch, the gender pay gap in the United Kingdom is as prevalent as ever.
Google Trends data reveals that between January 2004 and April 2018, there has been 100 times more search queries surrounding the gender pay gap within the United Kingdom. Additionally, according to Google Trends the topics of salary, woman and equal pay for equal work are all breakout topics proving a sharp rise in interest and searchability.
This is unsurprising given the startling number of headlines that have emerged within British media following the release of companies’ data on gender pay gaps. According to the BBC, less than one in seven companies pays female workers more than men. Additionally, 78% of firms in the UK pay more than women based on the median hourly gender pay gap.
Most companies in the UK also have fewer women at the top; data gathered from 10,016 companies that reported their data revealed that only 1 in 3 firms have a majority of women in their top earners.
Why does the gender pay gap exist?
The root cause of the gender pay gaps ceases to exist, there’s no definitive research or evidence proving that women are worse performers than men which leaves many theorists turning to stereotypes to find answers.
There seems to be two common theories, both of which are largely unsupported by tangible evidence. The first blames the physical differences between men and women and the second theory looks at childbirth and maternity as a definitive factor.
But both theories not only lack imagination, but they are entirely subjective and cannot be applied to every job. The physical theory can only be argued for in the case of active and strenuous jobs as males are viewed as being stronger, but that doesn’t take into account fitness levels, overall health, muscle mass or effort.
The latter is the most cited theory suggesting that women’s careers are held back due to giving birth to children. In an article in This Is Money, this theory is discredited by looking at the CEOs of two pharmaceutical giants – GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca. One hard hitting quote goes as far as to state:
“The ‘mum theory’ doesn’t explain why those who have so spectacularly broken through the glass ceiling are still on lower packages than the men. It would be patronising and absurd to suggest motherhood is why Glaxo CEO Emma Walmsley – who has four children – is paid millions less than Pascal Soriot, the father of two who runs rival AstraZeneca….”
The Equality Act 2010 Regulations 2017
Also known as “Gender Pay Gap Information”, the Equality Act (2010) is governmental legislation that is designed to minimise the gender pay gap through law as a UK Statutory Instrument. Most recently in 2017, as part of this act, businesses within the UK with more than 250 employees were expected to release their data of their employee salaries to examine the presence of gender disparity within pay.
The shocking results were telling to say the least, revealing that many businesses were clearly undervaluing women by paying them dramatically less than their male counterparts, despite working in the same job.
And the pay gap is not exclusive to one specific sector, ALL sectors revealed a dramatic discrepancy in pay between men and women with the two worst offenders being the construction and finance sectors.
Airlines also came under fire for the obvious gender disparity with RyanAir reporting a 71.8% gap, which emerged as the largest in the airline industry by a mile, as well as one of the widest across all sectors.
These results came to light shortly after Holly Willoughby dominated the news after telling the Mail Online that she had ‘no idea’ that she was being paid a whopping £200,000 less than Phillip Schofield, proving that celebrities are not immune from sexism and gender discrimination.
The gender pay gap in sports
Perhaps unsurprisingly the gender pay gap continues to be an issue in the sports sector.
A new tool The Sports Superstars Salary Calculator, reveals the difference in pay between top male and female athletes across football, American football, basketball, golf, tennis, boxing and racing. The differences in salaries that are revealed occur despite 85% of the surveyed general public stating that men and women should be paid the same in sport.
Across all sports, men earned more than women, even in sports such as racing that may not necessarily rely on physical strength to be successful. For football, Lionel Messi earns a staggering £81,987,828 which dwarves Alex Morgan’s £1,036,434 – she earns a mere 1.26% of her male counterpart.
Similar stories emerge across other sports regardless of nationality, for example Candace Parker erans a mere 0.12% of LeBron James’ wage, though she earns £80,642 that is pale in comparison to James’ £65,893,776.
Surprisingly, hot-shot tennis star, Serena Williams earns less than you might think. Though £20,050,115 is quite a high figure, this doesn’t quite match Roger Federer’s £47,767,659. Both are household names as well as multiple title holders, though she will play less sets in Wimbledon.
How can we tackle gender disparity in the workplace?
According to the Financial Times, data suggests that the main reason for the gap is the underrepresentation of women in senior jobs. There have been several suggestions for improvement including a change in processes and an overhaul of recruitment processes that eliminate any indication of gender on applications.
In the same article, Professor Vinnicombe from Cranfield University pointed out how pipeline gets thinner until there are very few women at the top. She believes that this is down to the way women are managed.
If you are experiencing a gender pay gap in your workplace, you don’t need to stay silent. The Guardian has several top tips for dealing with discrimination including joining a union, pressuring managers, asking for a promotion, and interrogating higher ups for their plans on how they will address the issue.
The final word
Whether you are male or female, it is clear that differences in pay needs to be addressed in order to retain talented female employees and to adhere to legislation. From a business perspective, the exclusion of women could be more harmful in the long term with firms risking lawsuits as well as losing out on top performing staff members.
Though we are a way from solving this issue globally, steps have been taken to improve the situation and hopefully we will see more in the future as the world becomes more progressive.