The gender pay gap is almost zero…for some

The key to closing the gap are the 40 somethings...
The gender pay gap is almost zero…for some

There was an interesting interview this week with Miriam Gonzalez Durantez on her view of how your life partner can impact your career. It plays to the dynamics of relationship and societal expectations.

It was particularly poignant as the Office of National Statistics (ONS) published the 2019 Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE). This showed that the median Gender Pay Gap (GPG) for all employees has reduced slightly year on year to 17.3% (17.8% 2018) and, for those working full time, remains roughly the same at 8.9%.

So far so good, not very dramatic, but as ever the devil is in the detail - the data for different age ranges. The GPG is decreasing for all age groups except those over 60*. In fact, it’s almost zero for full time employees aged between 18 and 39.

Then something happens…

  • At age group 30-39, there’s an increase in the proportion of women working part-time (38%), and while the GPG for full time workers remains low (1.9%) the overall gap grows to over 10%
  • At 40-49, the proportion of women working part time is 41% and the median GPG for full time workers leaps to 11.4%

It’s well documented that by the nature of many part time jobs, the typical hourly rate for part time work is lower than that for full time. And the impact of that can been seen in the 30-39 age range.

But what the data for those aged 40-49 shows is that women over 40 who are continuing to work full time are working in lower paid roles or occupations. This is echoed by research published by Rest Less using 2018 ONS data that shows a ‘drop-off’ of women’s average pay (and the gap widening) after age 50.

Is this something you recognise? I’ve certainly seen it in companies I‘ve worked for; excellent women in Sales or other demanding roles opting to move to office based or business support functions that are perceived to be more flexible or have less impact on family life. Certainly, Ruth Davidson felt that way.

As a member of Girlguiding, I saw the research to which Miriam refers and I’m all for inspiring girls and young women. Indeed, we see many companies’ GPG narratives, particularly for male dominated sectors, sharing how they are working hard to attract more young women. But, in an ever-tightening labour market why are we letting our experienced female talent drip away?

Especially as addressing the challenges for continued working at this age group is key to closing the gender pay gap. Can we:

  • better design jobs so that it is possible to continue in a full-time role and balance home/life responsibilities
  • offer more flexibility for all roles to enable those wanting to work part time to continue to contribute (and get paid) at the same hourly rate without having to switch roles or occupations
  • ensure that parenting policies are equalised for men and women to support an increased number of men to take career breaks or seek flexibility and for it to make financial sense

That way we will be supporting equality of expectations and aspirations of both men and women in the workplace and retain the talent we so desperately need.

But don’t rely on anecdotes, what does your data tell you about what’s going on in your company?

We’re proud to be working with the Royal Academy of Engineering and WISE (Women in Science and Engineering) to understand just that for the engineering sector. We’re eagerly anticipating the report….


*the impact of changes in women’s pension age is thought to be affecting the results


Photo: "Drips" by WoogssAcrylics is licensed under CC BY 2.0

At Verditer we make performance and reward more effective.  Do get in touch if you’d like help with your Gender Pay Gap calculations or narrative.

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