THE BLOG

The Gender Pay Gap Doesn't Age Well

04/01/2017 17:13 GMT | Updated 04/01/2017 17:15 GMT
David M. Benett via Getty Images

New generational analysis from the Resolution Foundation should give every Millennial woman (i.e. Gen Y - those born between 1981-2000) pause for thought. In fact, we all need to hit the pause button as the analysis shows very clearly just how deeply ingrained are workplace inequalities and highlights the structural changes that are needed in our labour market if we are to really close the gender pay gap and enable women to fulfil their potential at work.

Firstly, the Resolution Foundation show that the pay gap for Gen Y is 5%. Almost insignificant then? But reflect on the fact that this generation of women are more likely to be graduates than their male counterparts. So they are better educated and still start off with a pay gap. Then as they age we see the gap widen to 9%, so that the younger Gen Ys are only one percentage point behind the Gen Xs at age 30 who see a pay gap of 10%. This tells us that far from progress being inevitable the truly inevitable thing is women seeing a hike in the gender pay gap when they hit their thirties. The most significant lifestage event here is the impact of having children. What follows is a widening of the gender pay gap so that by age 44 Gen Xs will see a pay gap of 28% while baby boomers experience one of 35%. What prospects for our Millennials?

The evidence suggests that they are on a similar trajectory. Why the resistance to change? Firstly there is still a lack of quality part-time or flexible work. Part-time work usually equals low paid. So if women go part-time after having children, or take time out of the labour market they are on a trajectory which results in significant loss of earnings over time as the hourly pay they can earn will be much lower. They will also be less likely to have access to workplace training or promotional opportunities. In other words, their male colleagues are on the up escalator while they are stuck on the down. Men are also still not taking Shared Parental Leave in sufficient numbers to shift the expectations on who does the caring. Largely because it's not paid close enough to replacement earnings and isn't a dedicated period for dads. So the role becomes hers as does the penalty. If the pay gap wasn't enough, 54,000 women each year experience pregnancy discrimination. Pay discrimination too remains a hidden feature of our workplaces.

We also see women stuck at the bottom of the career ladder and men rising to the top. This problem hasn't shifted and of course links to the lack of quality part-time and flexible roles. But it also reflects our inability to accurately manage performance and measure productivity, so we substitute long hours and presenteeism instead and fail to think creatively about the way we design work. Even now in our 24/7 digital age. This in turn creates a macho workplace culture which recruits in its own image and is also unattractive and off-putting for many women.

Finally our gender segregated labour market still sees us recruiting male engineers in their thousands for every handful of women while 80% of careworkers, who happen to be amongst the lowest paid, are women. Fundamentally the pay gap is caused by all of these factors. New gender pay gap reporting requirements will at least require large employers to take the first step and publish their gender pay gap. But until we tackle each of the causes the pay gap will be with us for generations to come. Millennial women will be old hands at it by then it seems.