Stop the clock. Women have been working for free for nearly three weeks now. The evenings get colder as Christmas spins closer, and soon, without realising, resolutions apparently made months ago will be faded and forgotten. Time has passed, but nothing has really changed. It’s not getting any warmer, and the gender pay gap is as immovable as the Doctor Who Christmas Special.
Shocked? I doubt it. According to research, the gender pay gap will not close until 2069 at its current rate of decline. But you probably knew that already. There is a problem here, and, despite the fact Britain has its first female prime minister this century, it’s not being addressed. Moreover, the UK has dropped to 20th in the gender equality league table. In football terms, that’s relegation fodder.
A new report released by Korn Ferry Hay is another reminder that there are not enough women at the very top in key industries, and the consequential pay gap is gargantuan. The study surveyed 500,000 British workers, and found that in the East Midlands, the pay gap stands at a monumental 34%. In the Southeast, it’s as wide as 30%, while the North East suffers from a 28% divide.
The research shows that men and women are generally paid the same for the same work, although women still earn an average of 1.6% less than men in the same roles. But the real wage gap is a result of the lack of women in the highest-paid jobs, especially in the most lucrative industries. Essentially, we need more women in charge.
“This shows that organisations still aren’t dealing with the real issue here, which is that we need more women working in higher-paying jobs and industries and at the most senior levels,” said Ben Front, a Korn Ferry Hay data specialist. “At the moment firms are tinkering around the edges by offering benefits like flexible working to address the issue. More fundamental change needs to happen.”
The fight to close the gap is very much alive.
Sophie Walker, the leader of the UK’s Women’s Equality party, ran in the 2016 London Mayoral elections, and won 1 in 20 votes across the city. She fought to put gender equality on the agenda.
“Equal pay (is) very simple,” she said in an interview with The Guardian, “We should have full transparency of what is going on within Britain’s companies.”
And she won. Not the mayoral race, but Walker succeeded at forcing the pay gap onto the agenda. Mere months after she won nearly 350,000 votes at the election, the victorious Mayor, Sadiq Khan, has urged Greater London Authority groups to publish actions plans to take on the pay gap. Khan, a self-proclaimed “proud feminist”, wants change now.
As a proud feminist in City Hall, I'm taking real action to tackle the gender pay gap. https://t.co/IpjepHGaXZ— Sadiq Khan (@SadiqKhan) November 25, 2016
Theresa May, in her first speech as prime minister, then addressed the pay gap as a key target to tackle in her administration.
However, Walker is critical of the action that’s followed. “She has done nothing and it has been a huge disappointment,” Walker said. “There was this hope she had come into the job with an understanding of what needed to be done for equal opportunities… The silence is deafening.”
In a political context rife with accusations of misogyny, it’s vital that important British politicians continue to push gender equality forwards. The pay gap report is damning, but not insurmountable. The outriders for gender equality are strong, numerous, and, significantly, ready to take on the issue at its source. Change is coming.