Business are being urged to be more open-minded about female staff’s working hours to close the UK’s gender pay gap.
New data compiled by the Press Association, using Office for National Statistics figures, revealed that in their 20s a woman will typically earn £1,111 more than their male colleagues, but in their 30s they trail men by a huge average of £8,775.
Ann Pickering, HR director at O2, said the research, which looks at data between 2006 and 2013, highlighted that there is still a long way to go before genuine pay parity between women and men is achieved.
“While women are earning slightly more than men in their 20s, they are still overtaken by men later in life – and the reason is simple. Women are playing catch-up when it comes to reaching senior well-paid positions,” she said.
“If women are not in the same roles as men, how can they be on the same wage? The slight salary imbalance in favour of women early on in their careers is particularly interesting – and makes that ‘drop-off’ point in women’s careers and salaries all the more stark.”
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Sam Smethers, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, which campaigns for gender equality, suggested more senior roles would go to women if they were offered on a part time, or job share, basis.
“Unless there is good reason not to do so, that should be a company’s default thinking,” she said. “Sadly the opposite is true: once you get to a certain level it’s a full-time role, which excludes many women from roles they would be perfectly capable of doing.”
Teenage female workers are also struggling in comparison with males of the same age. The average full-time salary for 16 to 17-year-old females fell from £9,750 in 2006 to just £7,176 in 2013.
Over the same period, 16 to 17-year-old males saw their income dip marginally from £8,639 to £8,561.
It means young women’s salaries fell by 26.4 per cent over an eight-year period, dropping by £2,574. This compares with a fall of just one per cent or £78 for young men.
Smethers said it was a “worrying trend”.
She suggested one of the factors in this drop is the fact that women have suffered more from the economic downturn.
“Women have been suffering more than men because they had even less job security,” she said. “They were more at risk and thus worse hit when the recession struck.”
Smethers suggested more needed to be done to persuade young women to take up apprentices in better paying industries.
“Women are steered into roles like caring, beauticians and so on. These are poorly paid roles. We need to do more to steer women into non-traditional roles, or at least make it clear to them what these pay,” she said.