Gender pay – and careers – gap

The media are alive with the sound of commentary on the regulations that come into play today, requiring companies with over 250 employees to report on gender and pay.   Amongst the central requirements are information on mean and median pay and bonuses for men and women.

But it’s important that the requirements also include the duty to report on the proportions of  women and men at four different pay bands – quartiles – in the organisation.  This is at least a start on giving a profile to careers and progression, and not only to money.  It’s this focus on careers – occupational progression over time, at whatever level and in whatever direction – that is at the heart of the Paula Principle.  This is especially important as women tend to include things other than income as an indicator of their value at work.

An interesting example of different attitudes is the decision of Cressida Dick, the newly appointed chief of the Metropolitan Police, to reduce her own salary by some £40K.  It’s a handsome stipend even so – £230K – and I don’t know whether she has given reasons for it.  But it’s quite hard to imagine a man doing the same – not impossible, but much less likely.

A highly informative PwC Women in Work report on women returners shows the need to look at these issues in career-long context.  Its key findings are:

  • Around 427,000 female professionals who are currently on career break want to return to the workforce in the future.
  • Three in five professional women (or around 249,000) returning to the workforce are likely to move into lower-skilled or lower-paid roles, experiencing an immediate earnings reduction of up to a third.
  • 29,000 women who return to the workforce on a part-time basis will be underemployed, meaning that they would prefer to work more hours if flexible working opportunities were made more widely available.
  • Taken together, two-thirds of (or around 278,000) professional women could be working below their potential when they return to the workforce.
  • Addressing the career break penalty could boost female earnings by £1.1 billion annually, equivalent to £4,000 per woman.

This is, to put it mildly,  convincing evidence on how important it is to look at career profiles over time, and how much we are losing if we don’t.

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