Would you like to earn £300k less than your male colleague?

Would you like to earn £300k less than your male colleague?

According to recent headlines this is the approximate shortfall in lifetime earnings between men and women. The latest research also suggests that if you take a career break you might earn one third less than your male colleague and have limited career opportunities.

I suspect you felt that might be the case but didn’t know for sure. However, from 2017, employers with more than 250 employees will need to start to calculate, and share their gender pay gap data in 2018

Below are the four mains reasons, according to general consensus, that contribute to the gender pay gap:


Whilst illegal, some women are still paid less than men for doing the same job! Research also suggests that around 50,000 women are forced to leave their job early each year due to poor treatment after they have their baby. Doing either is illegal but also ends up in lost knowledge and expertise, increased recruitment costs and reduced moral in the work place. Simply put it’s bad for business!

Unequal caring responsibilities

Women take on the lion’s share of caring. Either for children or an elderly relative. This often leads to women working part time which can result in lower pay and limited progression. The recent report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies stated that mothers who return from maternity leave are paid 33% less per hour than men.

The pay gap widens in our 40’s as the impact of ‘career breaks’ kick in and men overtake their female colleagues. Maybe shared parental leave will help reduce this as might more men feeling comfortable in expressing their desire to be more hands on with raising their children.

A divided labour market

women are more likely to be in low paid and low skilled jobs. In my previous blog I mentioned the lack of women in construction and we know that 80 per cent of those working in the care and leisure sector are women. In skilled trades the gap is 25 per cent. In machine or plant operatives it’s under 22 per cent whilst in sales and customer service it’s only 5.9 per cent. Professional roles including chemists and teachers have a gap of only 4.3per cent.

Choose your career wisely

Men in the most senior roles – Men continue to make up the majority of those in the highest paid and most senior roles – for example, there are just five female Chief Executives in the FTSE 100.

These large corporations are not alone and whilst the gender pay reporting legislation has limited enforcement powers, once the lists are published we will be able to understand more clearly the differences are across a range of sectors.

All of the four factors shown above may explain your gender pay reporting when you produce it in 2017-18 and simply publishing the information will be the start of understanding what it is telling us.

There is positive action that can be taken now. Some simple ideas that might help are:

– When you get a vacancy advertise that job (and those at all levels) as flexible, part-time or a job share unless there is a really strong business case not to

– Become a living wage employer – over 60 per cent of those earning less than the living wage are women.

– Check if you offer family friendly benefits and working patterns. This isn’t just for women as men also consider this when applying for or staying in a role.


If you’re not already trying these three simple ideas you may fall behind your competitors and miss out on the best talent.

As mentioned, the legislation has limited ‘teeth’ but I have no doubt league tables will be produced by sector so before you get the chance to explain why you have a gap some of the best and brightest women candidates may look at it and decide to go and work somewhere else.


About the author

Valerie Owen is chair at Swan Housing. An expert in economic and sustainable development, she is a multi-disciplinary property professional – a Chartered Architect, Chartered Town Planner and Chartered Surveyor. Prior to setting up Le Vaillant Owen Consultancy, Valerie was Managing Director of London First, delivering economic development programmes in Sustainable Development, Housing, Regeneration, Health, Sector Development & Business retention in collaboration with national and regional governments.


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