‘Gender pay gap shifting so slowly it could last until 2151’

A study by PwC says progress on the gender pay gap is so slow it will take over a century to get to equality.

Gender Pay Gap


The overall average gender pay gap is continuing to narrow but very slowly, with the mean gap only falling 0.5% in five years and the median gap going up by 0.6%, according to PwC analysis. That means the gender pay gap may still be with us until 2151.

Based on companies that disclose their pay gaps each year, PwC says that in the last year the mean pay gap has fallen 0.3%, meaning on average women in the UK earn 87p for every £1 men earn.

The national average (mean) gender pay gap is now 12.9% while the national average (mean) gender bonus gap is 32.5%. Since reporting began five years ago in 2017, the mean gender pay gap has declined by only 0.5% while the median pay gap, which is more volatile, has increased from 9.2% 2017/18 to 9.8% in 2021/22.

PwC says 1,826 more companies reported their gender pay gap details this year (2021/2022), taking the total to 10,282. Almost half (43%) of the companies disclosing their data this year reported an increase in their average pay gap.

This compares to 41% of 8,456 companies reporting an increase last year (2020/21). This year, 53% of companies reported a decrease in their gender pay gap, 4% reported no change. 52% of companies have reported a reduction in their average bonus gap compared to 53% reporting a decrease last year. 44% of companies reported an increase in their gender bonus gap, 4% reported no change.

PwC’s analysis has shown that overall, average pay and bonus gaps have decreased since 2017. Yet since last year, the majority of companies’ pay gaps have changed by only plus or minus 5%.

Looking more closely at sectors, PwC says that over the last year, there has been an increase in the mean average gender pay gaps in 10 sectors, with the biggest increases in Agriculture (the sector’s average gender pay gap increased by 4.6% to 13.2%) and Travel sectors (increase of 3.9% to 17.6%). Financial Services, including Banking (28.9%) and Investment (25.7%), continue to have some of the highest average pay gaps, but there was a small (less than 2%) reduction in the average gender pay gap in each sub sector in 2021/22.

The sectors that made the biggest reductions to their average gender pay gaps over the last year were Mining, Energy and Real Estate. The average gender pay gap in the Mining sector decreased by 5.4% to 17%, in the Energy sector it decreased by 3.4% to 17.5% and Real Estate by 3.1% to 25.1%. 64% of Energy and 70% of Real Estate companies reported a reduction in their average gap for 2021/22.

PwC says Covid could have an ongoing negative effect if businesses don’t monitor the impact. It says the environment affecting women in work and gender pay gaps is getting more complex and cites the restructuring of sectors and businesses post pandemic, inflationary pressures on the costs of living, including childcare, and the low growth predictions for the UK economy as things that could threaten progress.

Katy Bennett, Diversity and Inclusion Consulting Director, at PwC UK, says: “If the current rate of progress continues – so far achieving a 0.5% reduction over five years – the UK’s gender pay gap won’t disappear until 2151. A century – five more generations of women – is too long to wait. Businesses are facing a number of challenges, but there is a massive opportunity to stand out from the crowd for those that take action, think bigger and experiment with new ideas.”

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