Reasons behind persistent UK gender pay gap - Business Works
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Reasons behind persistent UK gender pay gap

by Chris Hickey, UK CEO, Robert Walters Women need to feel more confident about their value to firms and it's clear that employers can do more to help empower them for scenarios such as negotiating pay rises or striving for promotion. Our research has highlighted a number of critical issues, says Chris Hickey, UK CEO of Robert Walters, including:

  • More than half of female professionals have never negotiated a pay rise;
  • 54% of women are unsatisfied with pay, with men on average receiving a bigger increase following negotiation;
  • Just one fifth of women know what they need to do to get a promotion;
  • 41% state lack of opportunities is the biggest barrier for women.

We surveyed over 9000 professionals across the UK as part of our research into diversity in the workplace. The findings help to explain the persistent gender pay gap seen at nearly eight in ten larger firms.

The top three challenges to progression at work were lack of opportunities, cited by 41% of female professionals, balancing work and family, cited by 35%, and lack of training, cited by 24%.

More than half of women professionals (54%) are unsatisfied with their pay, feeling that it is not a fair reflection of what they do. Despite this, more than half (57%) have never attempted to negotiate a pay rise, whereas men are 23% more likely to negotiate one across all stages of their career, even though the amount that negotiators pitch for is not far removed from their female counterparts (on average, men tend to receive an eight per cent increase in their salary following a negotiation, whereas women typically receive six per cent). Consequently, men are more likely, even after a negotiation, to feel that their salary is an accurate reflection of the work they do (38% versus 30%).

Over a quarter of men (27%) claim to know what they need to do to get a promotion versus less than a fifth of women (19%). Some 21% of women want more support from management to understand routes to promotion and 22% (versus 13%) reported that a lack of confidence was a barrier to progression.

A third of men and women reported that they struggled equally to balance their work and family commitments. According to the research, flexible hours is ranked as the nation's most preferred work perk, by 63% of women and 48% of men respectively.

As of 2018, nearly eight in ten firms (78%) with over 260 employees have a pay gap in favour of men according to the official government report. Men are over-represented in higher-paid jobs, while the proportion of women falls the further up the pay scale you go.

Men are also paid higher bonuses. The finance sector has the biggest bonus gap - for every £1 of bonus money paid to men working in finance, their female colleagues will take home just 65p. Other sectors that reported large bonus gaps included the education, health and construction sectors.

Sectors with the most unequal gender representation included engineering, which is 90% male, logistics, which is 90% and technology, which is 77% male.

All the right strides are being made to get women into work - with female professionals making up 47% of the workforce. In addition we're seeing more women working in core science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) than ever before.

The next steps is taking findings from reports such as this and acting on them. What the report also highlights is that women - from junior through to senior levels - see a lack of gender representation (at their level or) above as a key barrier to them being able to progress. Employers need to understand the effects of unconscious bias, and take active steps on how they can best eliminate this

To find out more, please visit: Robert Walters

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