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Gender Pay Gap – will it ever close?

Posted on 4th November, 2019

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the Tees Businesswomen Awards. It was an amazing evening, surrounded by so many talented individuals from the area, some of whom I know very well on a personal front, some of whom I have the pleasure of working with and others who I have got to know in one way or another since starting my own journey at the end of last year- when I set up my HR company alongside working for Jacksons Law.

It was great to recognise all the achievements and to see women playing pivotal roles in business, enterprise and in charitable organisations. As I looked around the room, it was apparent that there are many female entrepreneurs, strong role models and leaders in Teesside and that’s something to be proud of. I certainly am and already looking forward to next year’s celebrations.

With women leading the way on so many levels, it was disappointing to hear this week in the national news that the move towards equal opportunities is not as progressive as one would hope. The gender pay gap made the news this week again!

So what is the gender pay gap? In general terms, the gender pay gap is the percentage difference between average hourly earnings between men and women.

Provisional data released on Tuesday from the Office for National Statistics showed that in the year to April 2019, the gender pay gap for full-time workers rose to 8.9% – up from 8.6% the previous year. Although this is not a huge increase, it did reverse the long-term pattern in which the gap had narrowed. The figure has been falling since 2013, when it stood at 10 per cent for full-time employees. For people under 40, the gap for full-time employees was close to zero.

The overall gender pay gap – which includes part-time workers – is almost double the gap for full-time work. It narrowed marginally to 17.3 per cent from 17.8 per cent last year.

The extent of the pay gap varies by age, with older female workers more likely to earn less in comparison.

One of the reasons for differences in the gender pay gap between age groups is that women over 40 years are more likely to work in lower-paid occupations and, compared with younger women, are less likely to work as managers, directors or senior officials (Office for National Statistics)

In today’s society, it’s quite shocking to learn that any difference should exist. Society has come a long way from the days when women didn’t have the right to vote, but yet somehow today there remains a difference in equality of pay, which means that some businesses/organisations think its fine to have a disparity in pay between the two sexes!!

Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society (Charity campaigning for gender equality and women’s rights) said: ‘’Progress to close the gender pay gap is dismally slow and at this rate it will take 60 years to eradicate.” That is a long, long time for what is and should never exist in the first place.

There was some positive news nationally though on the workplace front. It was reported that there is an increase in the number of people working ‘flexible hours’ and that it had increased five-fold in the last two decades –according to an analysis of working trends by the Association of Professional Staffing Companies . This is certainly a move in the right direction towards ensuring a diverse and talented workforce. Having a diverse and talented workforce is what makes businesses successful!

Nazia Aftab, Employment Consultant









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