19/08/2014 12:22 BST | Updated 19/10/2014 06:59 BST

Fixing Pay Means Fixing Culture

Today sees the publication of data from the CMI (Chartered Management Institute) and salary experts XpertHR that shows the gender pay gap is hitting professional women aged 40-plus hardest. This group is hitting a 'mid-life pay crisis' as they earn 35% less than men in comparable, full time roles. This means that a woman would have to work the equivalent of over 14 years to earn the same as a male manager over their careers.

Our statistics, based on pay information from more than 68,000 professional UK workers, also show that the monetary value of the gap between men and women aged 46 and 60 stands at £16,680 per year. The problem is two-fold, not only does the salary gap increase with age and seniority, but there is also a persistent 'bonus pay gap'. The average bonus for a female director stands at £41,956, while for male directors the average pay out is £53,010.

This is not, as you might think, about maternity and motherhood--that's a myth. Rather, what's at issue is how our corporate culture is failing one half of the workforce. When women start their careers they are often in the majority, are equally as ambitious as men and excited to move up the corporate ladder. However, their reality soon changes as they see fewer female role models in senior positions and feel that they don't fit the stereotype of what a leader looks like. If their aspirations aren't fostered by their managers (who may presume women aren't as go-getting) this perception starts to become reality. Women are less likely to ask for a pay rise, or challenge their financial remuneration, which simply perpetuates the gap.

Nor should this be a case of blaming women. It's the corporate culture that we all need to play a part in changing. Men can help enormously by mentoring and sponsoring the women in their organisation to help make sure there's a strong and balanced talent pipeline of both sexes. Likewise women can support those that follow in their footsteps.

Employers need to lead the change by being transparent on pay and that means publishing figures. Of course I understand that some companies may be afraid to publish pay data because they fear what employees may do with this ammunition. Yet, what we've seen time and time again is employees applaud their leaders for being honest and transparent. After all, the first step toward fixing any problem is admitting you've got one!

As a Chief Executive, a manager and as a woman I want to believe that pay parity will become a reality. Yet, the statistics show that we're running out of time to fix this disparity voluntarily. What it may really take to make a difference is business leaders, organisations and government to join together in a cross-party 'Balanced Britain' campaign to measure where we are, set concrete annual targets and report transparently on progress each year. TAR (Think Act Report) goes some way towards this, however, CMI would welcome even firmer commitment from UK plc, our public services and our politicians to sign up. Why not join together and commit to closing the gap by 2020? This is not only good for women, but for organisations 'productivity, the growth of the British economy and the well-being of the workforce. Studies demonstrate that a better balanced workforce makes for more sustained profitability.

I hope that next year when we release these figures I can stop saying 'mind the gap' and start mentioning real progress that will fuel the recovery and help make Britain even better.