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Does the gender pay gap really still exist?

By recruitment expert and AMR Regional Director Alexis Mead
 
The gender pay gap is a topic that always generates a passionate response.
 
The Equal Pay Act came into force in the UK in 1975 following the Ford sewing machinist’s strike in 1968.  The Act prohibits less favourable working conditions between men and women.
 
However, nearly 40 years on, does the gender pay gap really still exist?  Although the gap has narrowed considerably, figures from 2012 tend to suggest that there is still something to be concerned about.  On a whole, women in full time employment earned 14.9% less per hour than men, meaning that for every £1 that a man takes home, a woman takes home 85p.  
 
Why is there still a gap?
 
There are number of different reasons why the gender pay gap still exists.  Despite efforts to make stereotyping a thing of the past, there are still some jobs that are seen as ‘men’s work’, (construction and science) and some as ‘women’s work’ (catering and caring).  The ‘women’s jobs’ are traditionally more undervalued and paid less than the ‘men’s jobs’. 
 
Although more and more men are becoming ‘stay at home husbands’ the majority of childcare is still undertaken by women, and it is working mothers who make up the bulk of the part-time workforce. The gap between hourly earnings for those in full-time and those in part-time employment stood at 37% in 2012, which does contribute to the gender pay divide.
 
Are there any industries where the gap is more prevalent?
 
The pay gap does fluctuate within different industries, none more so than the finance industry, where women can be paid a staggering 55% less than their male counterparts can.  
 
Science, technology and the health industries, where the difference in pay averages £5,000 and £8,000, are all other examples where it pays to be a man.  The property industry is lower on the scale, but there is still a male/female divide of up to £2,000.
 
However, it is not just industries where the pay gap is noticeable.  Women working in the private sector are likely to receive just under 20% less than their male colleagues, as opposed to 13.6% in the public sector.  In addition, women working in the competitive London environment in more senior roles can earn up to 33% less.
 
How can we level out the playing field?
 
Fawcett, who is the UK’s leading campaigning organisation for women’s rights, wants to see the government implement a comprehensive women’s employment strategy.  Amongst other policies, the organisation would like an amendment to the Equality Act 2010, which would require businesses (of more than 250 employees) to publish data regarding their gender pay gaps. 
 
There is also an argument of encouraging girls to follow different paths and pursue careers in industries where the pay is generally higher.  In education, girls tend to do better than boys, but boys more commonly gravitate to the technology and business sectors where salaries are high.  
 
So yes, the gender pay gap does still exist, but with the discussion surrounding it becoming louder, and the gap lowering year on year, hopefully men and women will be earning the same across all industries in the very near future.
 

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