The issue of the gender pay gap in the UK has come under new scrutiny since the BBC’s China editor, Carrie Gracie, resigned after condemning the broadcaster of a “secretive and illegal pay culture” that systematically discriminates against women.
Employers and organisations in the UK are now required to publish their gender pay gap statistics by April 2018, according to a new legal requirement under the Equal Pay Act 2010. This has sparked huge discussions around the statistics that are being revealed by the seven hundred or so organisations that have complied.
Companies and public sector bodies with more than 250 workers are subject to this new law, as the UK government is looking to create an equal and more modern workplace environment. This means that employers are required to give a written response that supports their statistics, publish pay gaps for bonuses, and state which actions are being taken to reduce the gap.
We spoke to a 21-year-old real estate agent, Jess, about her experiences with gender equality in the workplace: “I have worked with my agency since I was 18, so about three years now. When my director is away or working in one of our other branches, I am the manager of the office. Yet, there are boys that are employed by us that are as young as 18, with no experience, and they are getting paid the same wage as me.”
There is no single reason behind the gender pay gap and it is an extremely complicated and vastly deliberated issue. Currently, the gender pay gap effects those who are forty or older at the most, while the gap remains relatively small for those who are younger and in less skilled full-time jobs.According to the Equal Pay Portal, there are several ranges of percentages that can be explained by other factors, such as working patterns and hourly logged pay. For instance, in the 2018 Office for National Statistics analysis, 36.1 per cent of the gap could be explained by characteristics such as the occupation difference between men and women.
The analysis also found that men are more likely to be in full-time positions and women in part-time, thus working patterns should be taken into account for at least 9.1 per cent of the gap. However, this ends up leaving out about 63.9 per cent which cannot be explained but may be influenced by education qualifications, career breaks, family choices (having children) and elderly care responsibilities. Unfortunately, since none of these has been attributed or studied to qualify as quantifiable elements, it is likely that the gap is from discriminatory behaviour.
That said, some of the biggest companies are revealing that there is a pay gap of anywhere between 10-50 per cent between the genders. For instance, Aviva, an insurance company who employs 16,000 people in the UK [has] a median pay gap of 27.6 per cent. The bonus gap stood at 40.5 per cent. Whereas EasyJet reported that women’s median hourly pay rates are 45.5 per cent lower than men’s. It’s a bit less at Virgin Money and Ladbrokes, coming in at 38.4 per cent and 2.5 per cent respectively.
Jess says that her unequal pay situation leaves her feeling “degraded and unappreciated,” and adds: “I would understand if the men that worked with me had the same amount of experience as me, as well as the same job role and responsibilities as me, but they don’t. I have enquired about a couple of other jobs, but they all seem to be willing to pay me a similar wage, which makes me think that they would pay any men doing roles that are beneath me, the same as well.”
The Office for National Statistics states that men who have the highest paid jobs are earning approximately 54.9 per cent more than their female colleagues, but what makes this astonishing is that the pay gap for full-time employees has actually been decreasing over the past decade in the UK, yet England still has the highest gap.
According to the Equal Pay Portal, the gap had actually decreased as of April 2017, down to 9.1 per cent, but because of disparity between pay grades for women in part-time work versus men in full-time work, the margin is still being widened and is reflected by variables such as age, increase in wages for men in part-time, and workforce composition.
Since the revelation about how wide the gender pay gap is, there have been several public figures that have spoken up, for and against the gap. On BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, presenter John Humphrys commented on the pay gap by making a ‘joke’ to a North American Editor about how much he would be prepared to hand over to women who decided to claim more pay.
This, of course, sparked outrage amongst top BBC female stars, who ended up threatening to quit over it; these included Emma Barnett (radio presenter), Kristy Wark (Newsnight presenter), Leah Boleto (Newsround presenter), and Andrea Catherwood (Radio 4 presenter).
Jane Garvey, presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Women’s Hour, says that ‘pay-triarchy’ exists and that this is exactly what women are up against – in reference to the joke.
To give a little perspective, Carrie Gracie, quit her role as the BBC’s China Editor, claiming pay discrimination as she was earning £135,000 a year while male editors in similar roles at the corporation were earning upwards of £250,000.
Meanwhile, Lily Allen, a singer-songwriter, angered fans on social media when she stated that women who are in showbiz should earn more than their male counterparts because they have a shorter shelf life.
The Welsh Labour MP, Carolyn Harris, said that the statistics coming out because of the new law are immoral and astonishing, while companies like Ladbrokes and EasyJet stated that there was weak representation of women at their senior levels, thus skewing the discrepancy between gendered pay.
Regardless, it is clear that there are different expectations of salary between men and women and different contributing factors that contribute to the gender pay gap, but it is encouraging to see that the discussion is continuing to open up and that companies are being held accountable.
Featured Image by Wokandapix via Pixabay.