Causes of the gender pay gap – and how to improve your pay

24 Mar 2023
Juliet Mortiss, People and Culture Director, looks at how women can confidently ask for a better deal. 

It’s the 21st century, so why are women still earning less than men? We all want to live in a, equitable world, but unfortunately the gender pay gap stubbornly persists. The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that the UK gender pay gap currently stands at 14.9%. This means that for one pound earned by the average-paid man, the average-paid woman earns just 85.1 pence. 

What is the gender pay gap?

The gender pay gap is a way of measuring the difference in pay between men and women. It is calculated by identifying the median hourly pay for women and the median for men. It’s important not to confuse it with unequal pay, however. Since the introduction of the Equal Pay Act in 1970, it has been illegal to pay a woman less than a man for doing the same work.

Under Government rules introduced in 2017 to improve transparency, companies with 250 or more employees must report their gender pay gap data annually. 

So, if men and women are paid the same amount for doing the same job, why is there a problem?

Reasons for the gender pay gap

There are many complex reasons for the existence of the gender pay gap. 
A higher proportion of women work part-time, perhaps juggling childcare responsibilities, and so they earn less pro-rata. More women traditionally work in less-well paid jobs, such as administration, while many high-paying sectors are disproportionately made up of male workers. The latest ONS statistics show that the pay gap is largest in the financial and insurance sectors, and smallest in the accommodation and food services industries.
Career advancement is another stumbling block for women, as they are less likely than their male counterparts to progress into high-paying senior roles. Perhaps the most significant reason for the gender pay gap is motherhood. The latest figures show there is little difference in median hourly pay for male and female full-time workers in their 20s and 30s, but a substantial gap emerges among full-time employees aged 40 and over. This is because there is a gradual widening of the gender pay gap in the years after parents have their first child.

Women are more likely than men to cut down on work after having a baby. Some women leave the workplace altogether, while others might come back part-time. For those who wish to get their career back on track after becoming a mum, there can be a loss of confidence. As well as being away from the daily routine of work, these women will likely have missed out on valuable networking and training opportunities.

The rising cost of living is another factor in pushing mothers out of the workplace. If you’re a low-income earner paying for childcare just so that you can go to work, you might not be any better off financially than if you’d just stayed at home. 

How to increase your pay

Some women feel uncomfortable about asking for a pay rise. This could be due to harmful gender stereotypes in which assertive women are painted as ‘difficult’ or ‘bossy’. However, if you don’t push yourself out of your comfort zone, you’ll struggle to progress.

When arranging a meeting with your employer to negotiate your pay, make sure you are well-prepared. Update your CV to refresh your memory of the wealth of experience and achievements you’re bringing to the table. 
Do your research – look on job search websites and recruitment pages to discover what your salary bracket should be. Are you being paid what you’re worth? If there’s no room for manoeuvre in your current role, could you ask for a promotion or the opportunity to take on extra responsibilities?

Negotiating a starting salary or pay rise should be seen as a collaboration with your employer, not a confrontation. Be polite but confident – and think of the positive difference you make to the business. You’re looking for a solution that will bring mutual benefits. 

If you’re returning to work after having a child, remember that becoming a parent only enriches your life experience. Your skills have not been diminished by your time away from work. You might feel out of the loop, or lacking in confidence, but you have plenty to offer, so don’t undersell yourself.

How Ingeus closed the pay gap

At Ingeus, we are so proud to have closed our gender pay gap, which now stands at 0%. Equality, diversity, and inclusion is embedded in everything we do, and we are passionate about supporting the many talented women who work for us. We’re a female-friendly organisation, with women making up 60% of our workforce, and 75% of our Executive Team. We know that flexible working policies are crucial to enabling mothers to stay in work. Likewise, fathers need to be given the right to take paid leave so that women don’t always bear the brunt of childcare responsibilities.

Ensuring that training and development opportunities are accessible to all is also a key priority. To recruit and retain the best talent, we provide a happy and healthy work environment with plenty of opportunities to progress. Measures are in place to help people manage any health issues or disabilities and support and guidance is available for women going through the menopause.  

By focusing on gender equality, along with diversity and inclusion, we can support all women to fulfil their potential. Click here to find out more about career opportunities at Ingeus.

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