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It could soon become the norm for women to be the main breadwinner and men to be the main carers to their children, according to the chief executive of the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service.
Giving the Elizabeth Johnson memorial lecture at the Institute of Physics, Mary Curnock Cook said that statistics show women are consistently coming out of university with higher grades than men and that this is already feeding through into higher median hourly pay for women under 29.
She says: “This is a particularly interesting point because if, in their mid -twenties, women are earning more than men, this opens the possibility that we could see a tipping point at which it becomes more the norm for women, as the higher earners in a family, to return to full-time work, leaving their menfolk to play the part of main carer for children in the family. And that could have a profound effect on the representation of women in senior roles and their pay rates across the spectrum. I can certainly say that I see this more and more frequently amongst young female professional colleagues at work.”
She says girls are doing better than boys through primary and secondary school, but that the gap narrows at higher levels of achievement. She calls for more investigation into the reasons for this and the fact that boys are more likely to be admitted to university despite girls outperforming them.
She concludes: “The gender pay gap may take a generation to close as higher female participation and achievement in education feeds through to the senior workforce.”