Last year, over 10,500 companies publicly reported their gender pay gap figures in line with the Equality Act 2010 (Gender Pay Gap Information) Regulations 2017.
By the deadline of 4th April 2018 just over 94% of companies had reported with 100% compliance achieved. Furthermore, Hollywood actress Claire Foy, star of the Netflix drama The Crown, was revealed to be paid less than her male co-star, Matt Smith, despite winning a Golden Globe and two Screen Actors Guild awards for the role. Matt Smith did not receive any such accolades for his role in the show. Whilst no disclosure of the exact remuneration figure Smith received has been made, when the news of the pay disparity broke, it was reported that Netflix and the producers of drama agreed to provide Foy with $363,000 in back pay. These prominent and recent examples of wage disparity remind us that, despite jokingly being referred to as the ‘fairer’ sex, when it comes to remunerating women for their work, nothing about it seems fair. Whilst the UK’s gender pay gap has fallen to 8.6% for full-time employees – its lowest level yet, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), further work remains to address this issue. Thus, this article reviews the causes of the gender wage gap in like-for-like situations and suggests actions that employees and employers may take in an attempt to curb widening of the gulf between male and female workers.
There are three possible explanations for why a gender pay gap may exist in like-for-like roles:
Women don’t ask
As the saying goes, ask and you shall receive. One potential reason that women are not being paid the same amount as men for the same type of work is that women are not negotiating their salary offers as often as men. This is prominently documented in literature as several studies have shown that women are less likely to negotiate than men, or not likely to negotiate at all where the job advertisement does not specify that salary is negotiable. The question is: WHY? Suggestions include the following:
- Women have been socialised to focus on the needs of others over their own. Women have not been taught to ask for what they want, but instead believe that they will be recognised and rewarded for their hard work;
- Women fear they will be penalised for asking. Women are sometimes punished for behaving in a way that goes against societal norms and expectations, by advocating for their own interests. Women may experience ‘social costs’ of negotiating such as a damaged relationship with their supervisor or peers, which in turn, may discourage women from negotiating.
Women don’t ask for as much
It could be that women do ask, but due to lack of wage transparency they do not ask for as much pay as their male colleagues performing the same work. This was hypothesised from data obtained from the United States, where wage transparency amongst federal employees has resulted in a lower wage gap amongst these workers.
Women ask, but do not receive
There is a possibility that a like-for-like pay gap exists due to discrimination, or conscious or unconscious bias in pay decisions, in breach of existing anti-discrimination laws. A 2018 study, holding background factors constant, a study found that women ask for a raise just as often as men, but men are more likely to be successful. Women who asked obtained a raise 15% of the time, while men obtained a pay increase 20% of the time.
What can we do to eliminate the like-for-like pay gap?
When studies show that women negotiate their pay less than men, it is easy to infer that women are to be blamed for the existence of a gender pay gap on a like-for-like basis. However, everyone has a role to play in combating the pay gap – employees, employers and society as a whole.
- Equip yourself with the ability to negotiate your pay, and don’t be afraid to ask for what you deserve. Instead, place importance on the ongoing relationship between the parties during negotiations and aim to create win-win solutions. It is important to remember that it is equally as important to your employer that you receive pay equality for like-for-like work.
- Come to the negotiation table with an understanding of what other employers are willing to pay for the same work through market research, by attending interviews with competitors, speaking to peers working in equivalent roles in similar sized organisations and reviewing industry salary guides and benchmarks.
- Conduct regular pay analyses and identify whether your organisation has a pay gap and take action if a gap is discovered.
- Organise training for female employees on how to be more effective negotiators.
- Organise unconscious bias training for managers, to help them identify attitudes which may result in a social cost to women who negotiate.
As a society
Recognise that fighting the gender pay gap is OUR problem. As the saying goes, the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. Let us all take a moment to pause and reflect on the role that we can play to close the gender pay gap. If we each take corrective action to close the gap, only then will women have a ‘fair go’ at receiving equal remuneration as their male colleagues.
Leyton UK is an equal opportunities provider with a firm belief in ensuring gender equality across the company. The Leyton 4 All initiative drives constant improvement in this arena and supports charities with the same vision.
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