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Today is Equal Pay Day, which marks the day in the year where women effectively stop earning and work for free until the end of the year.  

This is caused by the gender pay gap, which sees women earning less, on average, than their male colleagues. 

The date of Equal Pay Day varies each year according to the actual pay gap in the UK. The aim of the day is to raise awareness of all the factors contributing to the gender pay gap.

How big is the gap?

According to the 2020 Office of National Statistics’ (ONS) Annual Survey data of Hours and Earnings (ASHE), the gender pay gap among full-time employees was 7.4%, down from 9% last year. 

Although statistics in this year’s report relate to a period when approximately 8.8 million employees were furloughed under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, the estimates in the survey did include furloughed employees and are based on actual payments made to staff from company payrolls. Evidence from the ASHE Labour Force Survey suggests Covid-19 did not have a notable impact on the gender pay gap in 2020.

Although the gap continues to narrow, gender equality campaigners including the Fawcett Society believe this is not happening fast enough. 

Where do the issues lie?

There are many reasons why the gender pay gap continues. If you have read our previous blogs, we have mentioned why women are not always seen as equal, from childcare responsibilities to cultural perceptions about men and women.  

But when it comes to the gender pay gap, there are a several contributing factors:  

  1. Pay Discrimination. Although this is illegal, recent high profile cases show that pay discrimination continues to exist. Related to this is the traditional secrecy around pay that we have in the UK, which enables further inequalityasking a person’s salary is seen as a ‘taboo’ topic for most people. Yet discussing pay with other colleagues, particularly male colleagues, would allow for greater transparency. This year the Fawcett Society has worked with parliamentarians to introduce a Bill to Parliament that would update the Equal Pay Act to include the Right to Know what male colleagues doing the same work are paid.
  2. The economic undervaluing of work considered ‘women’s work’. Our economy rests on the unpaid domestic labour of women (childcare, household etc.), and yet, this work is not valued by systems of economic measurement. An ONS study put the value of unpaid work done by women in the UK at £1.24tn a year – that’s £19,000 per person. 
  3. Women having more caring responsibilities for children and older relatives. According to the Fawcett Society, this results in women doing more part-time work, which widens the gender pay gap further.
  4. Men continuing to hold the best-paid and most senior jobs.This is a result of companies failing to promote women.
  5. A lack of women entering well-paid careers such as science and engineering. The Fawcett Society cites this as one of the main factors contributing to the gender pay gap.
  6. Women have systematically lower expectations in pay. In her book, ‘Women Don’t Ask,’ Linda Babcock revealed 57% of men will negotiate pay compared to just 7% of women. She argues this is because ‘self-promotion that works for men often backfires on women.’
  7. There is still widespread complacency in reducing the gap. Despite the UK Gender Pay Gap reform, which ultimately was presented as the solution to the pay gap, there has not actually been much progress. There is evidence (from ‘Close the Gap’) that many employers have never carried out an equal pay review. Employers do not seem committed to taking action with only 5% of companies actually setting targets to reduce their pay gap. Crucially, while forcing large companies to reveal their pay gap data was a good first step, the fact that no company is penalised for their unequal pay, results in no progress. And the process has stalled this year, as the government suspended mandatory gender pay gap reporting at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

Where do we go from here? Attracting more women into STEM roles

We know that getting more women into Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) roles is one of the ways to close the gender pay gap. But what can we do to help attract more women into STEM related industries, including transport?

  1. Research gender issues: This will help employers better understand their own gender issues and inform the development of diversity and inclusion strategy.
  2. Profile women doing all jobs at all levels in the company: This will provide young people with visible role models and inspire them to consider careers in the sector.
  3. Create ‘toolkits’ and case studies to provide best practice advice to help your senior leaders and colleagues build and develop inclusive teams.
  4. Actively encourage flexible and agile working for all staff. This should be led from the top. Senior leaders, especially male senior leaders, should be seen to work flexibly. Interestingly, the pandemic has helped with this as ‘presenteeism’ has not been possible and most people had to work flexibly to juggle work and childcare during the first lockdown. 
  5. Establish women’s staff networking groups to help women in male-dominated sectors make connections.

As there are many factors contributing to the gender pay gap, further policy change is still needed. But, by taking these steps, employers can inspire more women to join STEM related industries including transport, as well as supporting and developing those women already in transport careers.