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Taking stock of the Gender Pay Gap: International Equal Pay Day

Taking stock of the Gender Pay Gap: International Equal Pay Day

Despite efforts to combat the Gender Pay Gap, the issue of equal pay persists globally, and much more remains to be done. In an effort to achieve the principal of ‘equal pay for work of equal value’, the United Nations marked the first International Equal Pay Day on 18 September 2020.

International Equal Pay Day represents the longstanding efforts towards the achievement of equal pay, and further builds on the UN’s commitment to human rights against discrimination (notably, discrimination against women and girls). 18 September also symbolises the day in the year where women, on average, stop earning relative to men.

The Gender Pay Gap: Statistics

The gender pay gap is a measurable indicator of inequality between women and men. It refers to the average difference between the remuneration of male and female workers. While the gender pay gap is measured against different benchmarks country to country, data clearly demonstrates that globally, women earn less compared to men.

In the UK, the Government’s latest Gender Pay Gap Report revealed that in 2021, women were being paid just 90p for every £1 earned by a man. The 2022 report found that in industries such as communication, finance, and construction, the pay gap had widened, with women earning 83p, 88p, and 76p respectively compared to their male colleagues. The Covid-19 pandemic saw the largest increases in the pay gap for young women; it is thought this may be because they tended to occupy roles that were most likely to be furloughed.

Why are there gender pay gaps?

There are many factors contributing to the Gender Pay Gap, and several theories have been put forward to explain its persistence. It is thought that it stems from the ‘gender role theory’, where differential gender roles are adopted in early life and influence much of what happens in the home, at school, family life, and in employment. As a result, men and women often follow different paths in education and employment, and are segregated into traditional gender roles; this leads to overall differences in pay.

The ‘parenthood penalty’ is seen as one of the biggest barriers to equal pay. Research shows that, by their early 40s, women who have children before their early 30s will be earning less than women without children. Conversely, those who have children after their early 30s earn more than women without children. This stems from the fact that women who have children earlier are more likely to leave the labour market entirely due to the high costs of childcare. Young mothers are also report being twice as likely to experience discrimination. This suggests there may be a window of opportunity for women to establish themselves in their careers that subsequently closes. Statistics show that those who prioritise their careers before their children seem to do better in the long-run. This issue is not one faced by men when considering their career.

Another theory coined ‘occupational segregation’ explores the idea that occupations with higher proportions of women working in them are often seen as ‘feminised’. It has been found that the higher the proportion of women who work in an occupation, the lower the average pay within it. While both men and women who work in ‘feminised’ occupations (such as nursery nurses or cleaners) experience lower pay, women are disproportionally affected as women will outnumber men in these workforces.

The 2022 Equal Pay Day

Sunday 18 September 2022 marks this year’s International Equal Pay Day. The UN has declared that this year’s celebration will focus on pay transparency measures as a tool for identifying existing gender pay differences, closing the pay gap and reducing gender inequalities in the labour market. The event will gather leaders from various countries, as well as representatives of employers’ and workers’ organisations, to discuss the pros and cons of pay transparency.

How Employers can help

A big contributing factor to Gender pay gaps is the under-representation of women in highly paid or senior roles. To combat this, employers should make every effort to recruit, retain and promote more women into these roles. This can look like advertising roles in new places, including multiple women in shortlists, having gender-based selection panels, and providing mentoring and networking opportunities.

A focus on provision of better paternity leave benefits for men should also be considered. Generous ‘use it or lose it’ paternity leave can encourage men to take time for paternity leave – and contribute more to childcare. Ironically, there is a thought that improving men’s benefit could in turn help women, as it neutralises the ‘parenthood penalty’ and helps men understand the difficulties in balancing work and family life.

More flexible working conditions can also help those women in the workplace who tend to take on caring responsibilities at home. Covid-19 saw the adoption and acceptance of flexible working, but it is crucial that this is embraced by both genders. If it is only seen as an option or preference for women, they will likely face negative reactions for requests such as job-sharing, or working from home.

It is clear that the fight to close the gender pay gap will be a long one (the Global Gender Gap Report estimates it will not be balanced until the year 2277). However, small efforts such as the ones mentioned above can make a big difference. It is positive to see an increasing number of businesses are now voluntarily producing reports on their gender pay statistics. Measures such as those discussed above, if implemented effectively, can have a significant and permanent impact, helping to achieve equality of pay and contribute to  a culture of equality, diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

If you are would like more information about managing a gender pay gap or have any other questions relating to employment law, please contact the Employment Team on 03330 430350.

About the author

Debbie Fellows
Debbie Fellows

Debbie Fellows



For more information, contact Debbie Fellows or any member of the Employment team on 03330 166582.