The gender pay gap in the UK is widening among its highest paid workers, according to a 2019 report released today by the UK's Office for National Statistics (ONS). The report covers differences in pay between women and men by age, region, full-time and part-time, and occupation.
Among managers, professionals, and senior officials, the pay gap increased from 13.9% to 15.9% – a full 2% – in the last year alone.
"The results are disappointing but not a surprise," says Rosanna Duncan, Palladium's Chief Diversity Officer. "The challenges around pay parity are complex and there isn’t one silver bullet for this issue."
According to the report, the 10% highest paid women still earn one-fifth less per hour than the 10% highest paid men.
Millennials and Gen Z
For those under the age of 30, the gender pay gap has actually decreased over time and is now nearly zero. But the gap for those aged 30-39 is still over 10%.
"This coincides with an increase in women working part-time from [age 30]," says the ONS, pointing out that "households move towards having greater caring responsibilities, often from the mid-30s upwards."
Duncan believes that the reasons go deeper still, suggesting that gender stereotyping at school (which impacts career choices later in life), the 'Motherhood Pay Gap', and the second-class way we view part-time work are all factors.
"Unconscious bias can permeate all aspects of the recruitment and promotion cycle in a company," she says. "Employers might say that these challenges are beyond their control. But if employers committed to paying men and women at a rate which is appropriate for the job function and level, rather than basing pay on candidates' negotiation skills or previous pay slips, they would shift the needle much faster."
Gender Pay Gap vs Equal Pay
How the gap is measured is also a subject of debate. Calculating the "gender pay gap" involves measuring hourly earnings across all jobs in the UK, whereas "equal pay" measures the difference in pay between men and women doing the same job. According to Duncan, the latter can provide richer data and a clearer understanding for global companies looking for actionable results.
"By using an equal pay approach, we can identify differences between men and women, but we’re also able to identify anomalies between people of the same sex within the same salary band and take action. We can then better ensure that the starting salaries we give are as equitable and fair as they can be."
Of course, Duncan warns that looking at equal pay is just one piece of the "inclusion jigsaw."
"Tackling equal pay shouldn't only be the job of human resources but rather everyone's collective responsibility," she continues. "It's about starting conversations around diversity and inclusion and creating openness around the whole issue."
"Equal pay and fair pay decisions are everybody's business. When something becomes everybody's business, change happens quicker."