Calls have emerged for an end to the Covid-19-era pause on gender pay gap reporting, following the publication of figures indicating that the gap starts to open up in the first year of graduates’ careers
Released on 18 June by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), the numbers show that, among UK graduates of 2018, the majority who had attained their first degree and were working full time earned an annual salary of between £24,000 and £27,000. However, on average, gender representation in the higher-earning brackets skewed more heavily towards men.
Indeed, just 16% of women with a first degree earned more than £30,000 within 15 months of graduation, compared to 28% of men. In the highest-earning bracket, representation of males doubled that of females, with 6% of men earning more than £39,000 one year after graduation, compared to 3% of women. (The Guardian, 18 June 2020)
In a statement, Joe Levenson – director of communications and campaigns at economic justice advocates the Young Women’s Trust – said: “No sooner than a year after young women have returned their graduation gowns, those who have a job find themselves worse off than their male counterparts. If these inequalities are to be tackled, we need to smash career stereotypes, which are leaving young women locked out of better paid careers.
“Gender pay gap reporting – suspended by the government during the coronavirus outbreak – needs to be reinstated immediately to shine a light on the inequalities existing in employers across the country. More work also needs to be done to ensure employers are transparent about pay and progression.”
Levenson added: “This isn’t just the case for graduates either. Young Women’s Trust research has previously found that women who train as apprentices are paid less too, leaving them up to £2,000 a year worse off. With a looming recession, employers and the government need to work quickly to address these inequalities to ensure all young women can succeed and have the same opportunities as young men.” (Young Women’s Trust, 18 June 2020)
In light of the figures, is the pause on gender pay gap reporting now untenable?
The Institute of Leadership & Management’s head of research, policy and standards Kate Cooper says: “The transparency created by drawing attention to these sorts of inequalities is going to be the real driver for change, here. So any excuse for failing to insist upon the continuity of gender pay gap reporting will naturally be a step backwards.”
She comments: “Sadly, HESA’s figures are unsurprising: we’ve known for a long time that gender inequality is endemic – it doesn’t just happen when people start looking for work. The choices people make, the opportunities they’re given and the very subjects they’re encouraged to study are all differentiated along gender lines. Those differences then manifest themselves in unfair and unequal levels of reward.
“With all that in mind,” Cooper asks, “how can we not continue with what was first a movement, and then a statutory requirement, to focus firms’ attention on these issues? To make them think not just about where their endemic inequalities lie, but what they can do, in practical terms, to broaden their talent pools? Because ultimately, that’s what this is all about. For similar reasons, I think we are also likely to see increased demands for ethnicity pay gap reporting, thanks to the attention that the Black Lives Matter movement has drawn to other, systemic inequalities in society.”
Cooper adds: “One important response – which of course is not the only valid one – is to push for greater transparency on what’s really happening on the ground, in areas such as board representation. Such steps are absolutely vital if we are to deliver any truly effective change agenda.”
For further insights on the themes raised in this blog, check out the Institute’s resources on appreciating diversity
The Guardian, 18 June 2020
Young Women’s Trust, 18 June 2020