For Twenty-Something Women, Progress On The Gender Pay Gap Is In Reverse
The Debrief: It turns out that women are earning less than men from the very beginning of their careers...
It’s Equal Pay day so, obviously, everyone is talking about the gender pay gap. Before we really get into this let’s clear something up. Equal Pay and the gender pay gap aren’t actually the same thing, but they are two signs of the same coin (sorry).
It has been illegal to pay a woman less than a man for the same work since the 1970 Equal Pay Act came into force. However, overall, women still earn less than men and there is a definite gender pay gap in this country.
New figures released today show that the gender pay gap is actually worsening for women in their twenties for the first time in 6 years, meaning that some women are starting their careers worse off than their male colleagues. The Debrief has previously reported that the pay gap for younger women was in decline but these figures show this is no longer the case.
This data has been released at a particularly poignant moment. As we have a national conversation about power imbalances in our work places when it comes to sexual harassment and abuse, there’s never been a better time to talk about economic discrimination to ensure we continue to move forwards on all fronts, not back.
Sam Smethers, the Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society, told The Debrief ‘the pay gap is widest for older women as it grows over our working lives but we are now seeing a widening of the pay gap for younger women too, which suggests we are going backwards and that is extremely worrying’.
She added, ‘At a time when we are breaking the taboo of talking about sexual harassment in the workplac,e we need to wake up to the fact that a culture which tolerates or even fosters sexual harassment isn’t going to pay women properly either, and we know that younger women are particularly likely to experience harassment.’
This year, the gender pay gap has been front and centre of everyone’s minds, particularly in the wake of the revelation that many of the BBC’s woman presenters were paid less than their male colleagues.
Progress, it seems, has ground to a halt. The gender pay gap now stands at 14.1%, that’s the same as it was in 2015 and 2016. If we continue at the current rate it won’t close until 2117. The gap is highest in London (20.7%), followed by the South East at 16.3%. It is lowest in Wales, at 8.3%, and the North East, at 10.2%. But while it is falling in London and the South East, by over 3% points since 2011, it has risen in the North East by 1.5%. Across the board, women are almost twice as likely (1.8 times more likely) to receive the lowest pay – with 221,000 women earning less than the statutory minimum wage, 100,000 more women than men.
So far, so bleak.
In terms of what the government is doing about this, Minister of State for Women Anne Milton told The Debrief ‘Despite the Equal Pay Act being passed nearly 50 years ago, too many women are still held back in their careers. During that time the gender pay gap has reduced, but it has not reduced enough’.
‘The pay gap won’t close on its own – we all need to take action to make sure we address this. That is why we have introduced a legal requirement for all large employers to publish their gender pay and bonus data by April 2018. I’m pleased that some of our top companies are leading the way and have already reported. By shining a light on where there are gaps, they can take action to address it. There are no excuses, employers now need to get on with the job of publishing their pay gap and pledge to improve workplace equality.’
The UK ranks 20th out of 144 countries around the world for closing the gender pay gap, but no country on earth has absolute equality. In Iceland, which is ranked the best for gender equality by the World Economic Forum, women walked out of their workplaces at 14:38 on 24 October 2016 in protest at the gap. According to unions, this was the time of day that women began working unpaid relative to men.
In Britain today the Women’s Equality Party are encouraging women to put their out of offices on and stop working because, relative to men, we are effectively all working for free from today until the end of the year.
We’re having a lot of long overdue conversations about women in the workplace right now. Has there ever been a better time to get serious about equal pay and demand pay parity once and for all?
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