We must banish the pay gap to history

Laura Whitcombe's picture


It’s 2013 everyone. Not 1913. Not 1813. But yet men are still wealthier than women – and it would appear that the pay gap this stems from opens up at an early age. This means there is an inherent bias which sees men earn more throughout their careers and throws out of the window the assumption that women earn less just because they opt for a better the work/life balance so they can raise children.  

Not only do men earn £10,000 more than us each year but scarily that stacks up to not far off £500,000 more over the course of our careers. Ok, these figures – from the Chartered Management Institute – apply to executives but still!

Turn your attention to those workers on the first rung of the jobs ladder instead if you prefer, and of the graduates who began their degrees in 2006 and who have now been working for around three years, women still get paid less. 

In fact, 70% of them were earning less than £24,000, while only 56% of men had to put up with salaries less than this – according to analysis from Researchers for the Higher Education Careers Services Unit.

But the pay gap actually starts to open up even earlier than graduation from university. Teenage girls are missing out, compared to their male peers too. Even on apprenticeships, young women earn 21% less, on average, while doing their training in the UK – according to Unesco's 10th Education for All Global Monitoring Report. 

And once they finish their apprenticeships, things don’t get much better. Their wages will only see a 4% benefit thanks to their training, compared to a 20% improvement for a male who has done the same training.

So at entry level, women earn less. After graduating, we earn less. And as we climb the corporate ladder, you guessed it, men still get paid more. 

It’s now 41 years since the Equal Pay Act came into force but still we’re financially penalised. 

We’re also disproportionately affected by changes to the welfare system. Take the plight of new mums, for example. Around 340,000 of them claim either statutory maternity pay or maternity allowance each year. But from next month, these benefits, which have previously risen in line with inflation – currently running at 2.7% (consumer prices index) – will now increase by just 1% each year for the next three as part of the government’s cap on welfare spending. Campaigners say the move effectively means that by 2015 these benefits will have been cut by £180.