Recently, the Institute for Fiscal Studies, Cambridge and Harvard Universities found that women earn, annually, 23 per cent less than men 10 years after graduating. The Office for National Statistics had estimated it at around 33 per cent. So, we're 10 per cent to the good. Unfortunately, we're still 23 per cent to the bad. That’s not good.
The overall UK gender gap is 19.1 per cent – calculated on the average hourly rate of male and female employees.
There could be numerous explanations for differences in pay. Many women spend periods out of work before returning in connection with childcare. The reality is that women handle most of the childcare which means they do not accumulate the same amount of experience as their male counterparts in those first 10 years. They may, therefore, be overlooked for promotion which affects their pay. Some women's changing priorities could explain the disparity. Also, some high paid jobs carried out predominantly by men, possibly, involving risk to personal safety, might distort the figures.
It would be hard to argue that discriminatory practices do not account, at least in part, for the gap.
This 23 per cent pay difference after ten years of graduating, surely, cannot entirely be explained by women’s life choices and men drilling in the North Sea?
The government has realised that something needs to done to narrow the gender pay gap for graduates and non-graduates alike. It’s proposing that employers with at least 250 employees must publish gender pay gap information. It’s not yet clear what information is going to have to be provided. It could, for example, be the overall difference between the average earnings of men and women as a percentage of men’s earnings. A more detailed requirement could be for employers to publish pay differentials for jobs within bands. This could involve significant work for employers, particularly in the private sector where grading and bands are less common.
While publishing pay information’s a step in the right direction, it's going to take more than audits and spread-sheets to narrow the gap. A shift in culture shall be required, too.
Many businesses still make stereotype assumptions about women. These could be about women’s intentions regarding children and them taking time out for childcare or, for instance, in connection with their pay and career aspirations . Even if other things improve, such as flexible working options, until all employers cast these assumptions aside the discriminatory element of the gap will continue.
Perhaps, the new shared parental leave law, allowing parents flexibility as to how they divide their child caring responsibility will also, in time, help redress the imbalance.