A report from IPPR has found more than 80 per cent of occupations pay men more than women, on average. The analysis, included in a new IPPR discussion paper, The State of Pay: Demystifying the gender pay gap, draws on the most granular level of the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) detail available from the Office of National Statistics, and suggests that, even when men and women do the same type of job (e.g. as pharmacists; financial managers; or van drivers) women tend to earn less overall than men.
This points to seniority as a critical driver of the pay gap: where men and woman have the same occupation, men are in more senior, more highly-paid versions of the role than women. Men and women in supposedly comparable leadership positions are often doing quite different jobs – e.g. women who are managers and directors are much more likely than men to work in health and social care, and much less likely to be a chief executive or a financial manager and director, where pay is typically higher.
“Eighty-one per cent of occupations have a gender pay gap,” says Catherine Colebrook, IPPR chief economist and co-author of The State of Pay. “This points to seniority as a critical driver of the pay gap – for most occupations, men are in more senior, high-pay versions of the role than women.
“Most organisations pay men more than women on average,” she continues, “but the gap between men and women’s pay is generally smaller than the gap for the sector in which those organisations operate. This means that, even if all firms closed their gender pay gaps tomorrow, we would still have a pay gap at the societal, or whole-economy level. Therefore, firms can certainly help to reduce the pay gap, but they are not the whole solution to it.
The State of Pay makes several recommendations for how to give women better opportunities to keep pace at work with their male counterparts.
“We need new ways of making sure women keep pace with their male counterparts on pay and seniority,” says Colebrook. “Women are less likely to negotiate salaries when starting a new job and when in post, so employers could rule out the possibility of negotiation altogether, or make sure all employees earn at least as much as any new recruit on the same level.
“Women are less likely to put themselves forward for progression opportunities, so employers could automatically consider employees for promotion after a given length of time in post, interview all internal candidates for vacancies, and encourage more women to apply for internal promotions.”
Colebrook concludes: “Changing men’s working behaviour is a crucial component of equalising pay. Employers could offer paid paternity leave on a ‘use it or lose it’ basis, make jobs flexible by default, and encourage men to job share.”