HR & Management

British women earn less than men in 90 per cent of business sectors

5 min read

17 November 2015

Former deputy editor

British women working full-time are earning less than men in an overwhelming 90 per cent of sectors, according to research from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES), and financial and insurance industries are the most guilty of underpaying the female workforce.

American star of The Hunger Games, Jennifer Lawrence, has been campaigning for equal pay in Hollywood. While actors and actresses earn a sum that most people can only dream of, her action against the trend of men earning more has been praised.

That’s because it’s a relatable plight that women working across a variety of industries know too well, with the gender pay gap an ongoing issue that prime minister David Cameron has called a “scandal”.

The UKCES report found that male workers are paid 19 per cent more than female workers on average.

However, of the 90 per cent of sectors where women are underpaid, the financial and insurance industry has the largest divide with females earning as much as 40 per cent less than male counterparts.

Dr Vicki Belt, assistant director of UKCES, said: “This research brings home the bleak reality of gender inequality at work in the UK. In spite of women’s real achievements in education, the gender pay gap stubbornly remains.

“As almost a quarter of women work part-time, they are also disproportionately affected by the low quality, and poor progression opportunities offered by much part-time work.”

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Shocking gender pay gaps have also been highlighted within energy, science and technical roles – areas that are male-dominated.

As such, we’ve seen Martha Lane Fox call on women to embrace their inner hunters to take on the tech industry. Then there’s the shortage of cyber security experts, which has prompted the industry to call on women to consider a career path in the sector to help bridge the skills shortage.

The UKCES study found that between 2005 and 2014, the number of women taking Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) degrees increased by just two per cent – spiking to 24 per cent for men.

Interestingly, the pay gap is in contrast to the fact that women are found to be better qualified than the opposite sex, given that they achieve better results across GCSEs, A-Levels and degrees. Almost 300,000 women graduated university in 2014 compared to 205,000 men.

In the gender pay gap campaign Cameron revealed in the summer, he said he would force companies to reveal details on pay to “cast sunlight on discrepancies”. Despite the promise, female executives spoke out and have little faith anything will change.

“Our research shows that occupational segregation is a key factor at play here. Women are under-represented in a range of sectors and occupations that offer higher paying roles – for example fewer than ten per cent of British engineers are female,” added Belt.

“It is welcome that the government is moving to bring more transparency here, by introducing a requirement for the public sector and larger firms to publish information on gender pay differences.

“However, there is clearly more that could be done by employers, education providers and careers advisers to create more and better opportunities for women and tackle patterns of occupational segregation.”

In contrast to Jennifer Lawrence’s campaigning, British actress Kate Winslet came under fire in November for calling the gender pay gap debate “vulgar”.

“I’m having such a problem with these conversations. I understand why they are coming up but maybe it’s a British thing. I don’t like talking about money; it’s a bit vulgar isn’t it?,” she said.

Perhaps the UKCES study will be a wake-up call for her to use her position of power in the same way Lawrence has.

Image: Shutterstock

Concerned with issues surrounding gender diversity in business? Don’t miss the Real Business First Women programme:

Drawing on years of the First Women movement and the phenomenal network of pioneering women the Awards has created, this programme features The First Women Awards and The First Women Summit  designed to educate, mentor and inspire women in all levels of business.