Pay only equal for men and women at beginning of career

New research has discovered the pay gap between men and women grows substantially over the first 10 years of a woman’s career. Yet both sexes start off equal on the career ladder.   Workingmums.co.uk looks at why women lose out in the pay stakes as they get older.

New research has discovered the pay gap between men and women grows substantially over the first 10 years of a woman’s career. Yet both sexes start off equal on the career ladder.   Workingmums.co.uk looks at why women lose out in the pay stakes as they get older.

Pay gap still wide
A new study has revealed that although women have made significant ground in pay compared to men at the start of their careers, there is a serious widening between genders as careers progress and women become considerably worse off.
Research by Dr Leen Vandecasteele, from Manchester University, found that although educational opportunities nowadays give men and women an equal start, once a woman’s childcare responsibilities kick in, any initial equality drains away.  She blames the disparity on years spent away from the labour market and on women working in occupations which employ mainly women, such as cleaning or nursing.
Dr Vandecasteele presented the findings of her latest study to the British Sociological Assocation conference on Work, Employment and Society, held in Brighton.
She analysed survey data and developed graphs from more than 5,000 households to compare two groups of women in their early career, starting in 1991 and 2000.  Data was used from the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS), a socio-economic household panel which started with a sample of more than 5000 households back in 1991.
Dr Vandecasteele, who is based at the Cathie Marsh Centre for Census and Survey Research, Manchester University, discovered women in their early career earned on average 18% less than men in 1991.  But this figure had gone down to 5% for the group whose earnings were analaysed in 2000.
She said her analysis of the data showed the gender wage gap has largely disappeared for women at the start of their careers  – the 2000 group of women had higher education levels than the 1991 group and their children were born substantially later.  This, she says, could explain the more equal start in wages.
A study carried out in the United States earlier this month found that young single women under 30 were making more than their male peers.  Research by Reach Advisors analysed US Census Bureau statistics and discovered women were earning up to 8% more than male counterparts.  

When does the disparity become evident?
But as Dr Vandecasteele followed the two groups over their careers, she found that by the eighth year of observation, the  group from 2000 suffered a pay gap of 24% compared to men – this almost caught up with the 27% figure of disparity for the 1991 group of working women.
”The research confirms that progress has already been made towards the equalization of the wages of men and women – at the very start of their careers,” she said.
”But while the younger generation of British labour market entrants enjoy larger gender equality in educational opportunities and initial wages, this does not persist over their career.”

How do we fare compared to the rest of Europe?
In May this year, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) called for organisations to do more to close the pay gap between male and female employees, and is actively monitoring the gender pay gap in the different member states.  ”With a pay gap of 21.4%, the UK is doing worse than the EU average of a 17.8% gender pay gap,” said Dr Vandecasteele.  ”Higher gender wage inequality is found in countries where a significant proportion of women work part-time (such as the UK), or where the labour market is highly segregated, which means that women work predominantly in specific jobs which are lower paid, such as health care and education.”

What can be done about it?
Dr Vandecasteele said: ”Policy makers should realise that a focus on education alone will not eliminate the gender wage gap.  It is more important to work on the negative wage consequences of years spent away from the labour market and the gender segregations of occupations.”
She said the Government was taking action already in terms of legislation and awareness-raising because companies and organisations will be obliged to announce their gender wage gap.
”Generally we could also expect that a better provision of childcare will allow women to remain in the labour market when they raise their children,” she said. ”It is also important that women can remain in full-time employment when they raise their children, because a lot of studies have shown that there is a large wage drop for part-time work.”





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