In the third decade of the 21st century, it should come as a shock to learn that the pay gap between the sexes is widening rather than closing completely, but somehow it does not.  And that “news” will be even less of a surprise to women. The most recent government data shows that three years after a new law compelled companies to reveal the difference between male and female wages, eight out of ten businesses with more than 250 staff still pay men more than women for the same work.

The new data shows that women are paid a median hourly rate of 10.2% less than their male colleagues, nearly a percentage point higher than the 9.3% figure reported in 2018. In the private sector the pay gap rose from 8% in 2018 to 9% in 2021, while in the public sector the increase was from 14.4% to 15.5%. The government data has increased fears the that the pay gap will widen even further amid worsening economic forecasts for 2022. 

However, further figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) give a slightly less bleak picture, suggesting that although the gender pay gap for all UK employees has increased in the year up to April 2021, the rise can be partially attributed to the disproportionately high number of women who were furloughed at the height of the pandemic.

The ONS calculates its pay gap based on its Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings, taking a snapshot of earnings across the UK economy, and is therefore different from the compulsory gender pay gap reporting. And on a marginally more encouraging note, the ONS said there was still a long-term downward trend in the gender pay gap, which has fallen by a quarter over the last decade. The ONS figures also showed that the pay gap was highest for the top 10% of earners, with women in this group earning 16.1 per cent less than their male counterparts. 

And another set of figures recently released, the Fawcett Society’s 2022 Sex and Power Index, reveal that less than one third of the UK’s top jobs are filled by women. The biennial report, charting the progress towards equal representation for women in top jobs across the UK, shows that women are outnumbered two to one by men in positions of power. 

The society’s data also shows that women from ethnic minorities are under-represented at the highest levels in many sectors and missing altogether from senior roles such as supreme court justices, metro mayors, police and crime commissioners and FTSE 100 chief executives.

Commenting on the report, Jemima Olchawski, CEO of the Fawcett Society, said: “The people who hold the top jobs in our society have enormous power to shape our democracy, culture and economy. Yet men continue to dominate most senior roles. That’s not only bad for the women who miss out on opportunities to thrive, but it’s bad for us all, as we miss out on women’s talent, skills and perspectives.”

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