One of the most significant examples of inequality worldwide, and in the UK workforce, is the gender pay gap. While many people know roughly what the pay gap is, many people don’t understand the combination of complicated reasons that allow women to go underpaid continually. Further, because discussing your salary with other colleagues isn’t common and sometimes discouraged, it can be hard to know if you are being underpaid because of your sex or gender.
On this page, you can find information and statistics which break down the gender pay gap, explaining what it means for women, and why it happens. On a much more practical level, you can also find helpful advice related to disclosing pay, and what to do if you think you are underpaid because you are a woman.
At Aspiring to Include, we believe that all forms of inequality are not merely the responsibility of the person who is being mistreated. As such, we encourage everybody to read and engage with this page and take active steps to address pay inequality of all kinds.
What is the gender pay gap?
The gender pay gap measures the difference in pay between men and women and reports the gap between them. As of April 2020, according to the Office for National Statistic, the gender pay gap stands at 7.4% for full-time employees and 15.5% among all employees. There are more women than men working in part-time roles which is why we see the skew in the statistic, which includes part-time workers. These statistics mean that women earn 7.4% less than men on average for no other reason than their gender.
These statistics can be hard to visualise and comprehend; a more straightforward analogy of the gender pay gap is understanding how much a woman earns for every £1 a man makes. In 2019 the pay gap stood at 17.3% which means that women earnt 83p for every pound a man did. That works out about £30 less a month.
It is essential to understand that the pay gap is calculated as the average hourly earnings between men and women, and is measured across all jobs in the UK. It is not merely a measure of men and women who do the same job.
Where does it come from?
The gender pay gap helps to indicate the inequality and discrimination that occurs in the workplace. Throughout a working lifetime, women will earn considerably less than a man. As well as this at times being down to straight discrimination, there are some other more complicated reasons.
Firstly, women bare most of the responsibility of childcare which can stop women from progressing into higher-paid positions, as they will need to take more time off or even take a break in their careers. These care responsibilities also mean that women are more likely to take on a part-time position, which is less likely to have scope for career progression, and are typically lower paid.
Another reason for the gender pay gap is because of the divide in the labour market. Women occupy 80% of low-paid care and leisure roles and only occupy 10% of higher-paid trade roles.
There has also been a growing discussion regarding how we classify a job’s skill and how this may have been affected by gender stereotypes. We assume that some roles are ‘less-skilled’ and, therefore, deserve less pay, simply because they are typically women’s work. For example, clerical job, care work, cleaning work and childcare.
What to do if you think you are being underpaid
It is against the law to pay a woman less than a man for working in the same role or the same skill level. If you feel like you are being underpaid, you can discuss your salary with your colleagues. The 2010 Equality Act declared it illegal to stop colleagues discussing pay when resolving equal pay issues. You can speak to HR for support, or make a case against your employer. You can also ask your union for support regarding equal pay.
For more information regarding women and employment, visit our guide to pregnancy and maternity.