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Practical Steps to Addressing the Gender Pay Gap on Equal Pay Day

Equal Pay Day, this year is celebrated on the 18th September - a day dedicated to raising awareness of the gender pay gap and encouraging employers in all industries to take concrete steps toward closing it.

Back in 2019, I wrote an article to mark Equal Pay Day advising women on ‘how to say my pay’s not ok’ during their annual performance review.

At the time, women were being paid 13% less than men and the debate on the gender pay gap was getting louder.

(The gender pay gap refers to the difference between the average earnings of men and women).

Now, four years on, the optimist in me hopes to see the gap narrowed but according to Forbes, women in 2022 still earned 17% less than men on average’. It is clear that current efforts to close the gender pay gap are woefully inadequate and that things are not moving in the right direction.

Gender pay gap reporting has helped to bring the issue to the forefront of public attention and whilst many countries have made significant progress in addressing the wage gap between men and women, there is still work to do - and it starts with practical action by both government and businesses.

Bold, decisive action is needed not just to narrow the wage gap but the pension gap that means many women will also miss out on a comfortable retirement according to this article in the Financial Times. The Department for Work & Pensions currently estimates the gender pay gap in private pensions is at about 35 per cent. Interestingly the latest report on the Gender pay gap in the UK: 2022 from the ONS states that:

  • Compared with lower-paid employees, higher earners experience a much larger difference in hourly pay between the sexes.

  • The managers, directors and senior officials' occupation group has experienced the largest fall in gender pay gap since the pre-coronavirus pandemic April 2019 figure, especially for those aged 50 and over; this group has previously been identified as having a notable impact on the pay gap.

Some organisations are clearly taking positive steps to narrow the gap in their senior ranks. However, it seems that paying women less for doing comparable work is still prevalent across most industries including highly skilled professions such as law and medicine. In the legal industry, men earn an average of 59% more than women.

A Canadian study published in JAMA Surgery in October found that female surgeons in Ontario earned 24% less than their male peers, despite the province’s fee-for-service payment model. - Source: What's driving the gender pay gap in medicine? It’s also inexcusable in 2023 that we are now hearing more frequent reports from women in different sectors being sexually assaulted in the workplace. For example, 1 in 3 female surgeons claim to have been sexually assaulted. Another gross injustice especially given they are more likely than male surgeons to be assigned high risk patients and have equal or possibly better patient outcomes than male surgeons. - Source: The long road to gender inequity in surgery

Male and female figurines on a see saw

We must all work to narrow the gender pay gap

The gender pay gap is a complex issue. It requires a concerted effort from all parties involved. Corporates should embrace pay transparency, offer flexible work options, address bias in hiring and promotion, develop and promote women, and take collective action to create a more equal workplace.

However, I firmly believe that it is not just the responsibility of corporates to bridge the gender pay gap. Collective action is needed to bring about real change. Industry bodies, government and non-profit organisations should work together to promote gender equality.

Corporates should collaborate with each other and their industry partners to share best practices and lessons learned. By working together, we can create an environment where equal pay for equal work becomes the norm.

Developing and promoting women is key to bridging the gender pay gap.

Female professionals should know their worth, ask for what they deserve, and seek to develop their skills and competencies. Corporates can help by providing gender-specific training and development programs specifically aimed at women, giving them the tools and confidence they need to raise the issue with their employer.

Offering personal and professional development opportunities such as coaching and mentoring programs, personal development workshops, and leadership programs can help women progress in their careers. Ultimately the promotion of women to higher leadership positions will help to break the glass ceiling and improve pay equity.

Equal pay for equal work

As a professional woman having navigated the complexities of the corporate world throughout my career, I find it jarring that we are still grappling with this issue in 2023, despite the significant strides made in gender equality. The stark disparity in wages and pension contributions between men and women isn't a mere ethical issue; it poses a potent threat to our economic sustainability and social justice.

It's essential for women to understand their value, to be bold in asking for what they rightfully deserve, and to continually seek opportunities to enhance their skills and competencies. I've personally seen the benefits that gender-specific initiatives can bring, through the delivery of my coaching programmes for women.

I am looking forward to an Equal Pay Day when 'equal pay for equal work' becomes the rule rather than the exception.

Susan Room signature

International Equal Pay Day, celebrated on 18 September, represents the longstanding efforts towards the achievement of equal pay for work of equal value. It further builds on the United Nations' commitment to human rights and against all forms of discrimination, including discrimination against women and girls.

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