The gender pay gap is a measure of the difference between men’s and women’s average earnings across an organisation or the labour market.
It is not the same as unequal pay, which involves women being paid less than men for doing the same work or work deemed of equal value.
However, unequal pay may be a factor in the gender pay gap. The gender pay gap has many different causes. Chief among them is the lack of women in senior roles in organisations and the concentration of women at the lower end of the pay scale.
The national gender pay gap is also linked to the lack of women in better paid sectors, such as technology. Part-time work and the fact that there are few part-time jobs at senior levels also hold back women’s pay. The reason more women than men do part time jobs is that they are still more likely to be the main carers of children or others. Another factor is the struggle women who have taken a career break often face to get back to jobs that are on a level with what they were earning previously. Other factors that contribute to the gender pay gap are unconscious bias, including assumptions that women do not want to progress their careers if they have children, lack of sponsorship and support as compared to men [the so-called ‘old boys’ network’], high childcare costs which can lead to women dropping out of the workplace or taking lower paid part-time work, lack of flexible working, pregnancy and maternity discrimination and stereotyping of women in particular roles which are lower paid.
Tackling the gender pay gap requires a raft of different measures, from encouraging flexible working at all levels of an organisation, more support for childcare, promoting Shared Parental Leave and supporting dads who want to work flexibly, helping returners back to work to fill skills gaps and ensure their experience does not go to waste and making managers aware of the barriers women face in the workplace, how these can be overcome and the wider business benefits of doing so.
The gender pay gap has a knock-on impact on women’s pensions and the lack of women in senior positions in industry and in politics means that women’s voices have often been missing from vital discussions about a whole range of social and business issues.