Unleashed Womens Network

As new statistics show that the gender pay gap in the UK is 19.7 %, women should ask themselves if they can do something to change a system that still undervalues them.

The gender pay gap represents the difference between the average gross hourly earnings of male and female employees. To put things into perspective, in the UK there is a rise in the gender pay gap compared to 2012, when it was 19.6 %. This year is also the first time the gap rose in five years.

So, while female rights campaigns are ever as popular, the average global pay gap is still significant – of 23%. For the European Union this number drops to 16.4%. However, in a place like the United Kingdom that prides itself to be one of the most pro-gender-equality nations in the world, a number as high as 19.7 shows that equality is still very much absent on the workplace.

To compare, the gender pay gap in fellow European member states, such as Italy, Slovenia and Poland is less than 10%, while in a big economy like Germany, it is wider than 20%. In the concept of such statistics, the UK is definitely losing its spot as a pioneer in gender equality.

How is it that the gap is still existent?

Undoubtedly, the main issue is that on some occasions women are paid less for doing the same work as their male co-workers. In this case they are victims of the so-called “direct discrimination” – a practise prohibited under EU law that should always be reported. Furthermore, on average, sectors where women are in the majority have lower wages then the ones dominated by men. Add to that the fact that there is more women than men in low-paid occupations (63% of workers paid at or below the living wage of £7.65 are female) and you get the idea why the gender pay gap is still fairly wide.

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How does the gender pay gap issue affect business women?

Another core issue is the lack of significant representation of women in senior and leadership positions. According to the 2014 Female FTSE board report, only one in five FTSE 100 board members are women and there are only five female CEOs in the FTSE 100.

So, as a result, in the UK there is a 23% pay gap for people of different genders, working at a management level.

The harsh truth is that the gender pay gap widens with age. That is, while young women are currently paid the same as their male counterparts, the pay gap widens as we approach our forties. All in all, by the time women in business get to managing positions, they are paid as much as 23% less than male managers. So, female bosses would have to work approximately till their 80s in order to make as much money as male ones. In figures, the average pay gap between men and women who are company directors currently stands at £21,084 a year. When including male and female managers of all ages, the pay gap is £9,069.

If you are a working woman, with a good education and excellent career prospects, what can you do to change that? The answer is: ask for a pay rise.

Yes, truth is every woman that feels undervalued and underpaid on the workplace should step up and ask for a rise, as currently that is the best solution to the problem there is. Of course there are EU legislations and collective agreements tackling the rising pay gap issue. There are also plans in some companies to reduce the gender pay gap. Nevertheless, the issue can best be tackled from within: women, as individuals, can ask for their own pay rise.

However, last week a Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, made headlines as he suggested that women should not be asking for a pay rise, but rely on the system as sooner or later “karma” will get them what they deserve. Although Mr Nadella has apologised since, his words can do nothing but linger in the public space as heated debates on the importance of a gender equality in salaries have been started yet again.

In the meantime the forth of November is upon us.

What is so significant about that? From this day on female employees stop earning anything in comparison to men each year. With other words, if you are a woman, working in the UK, from November 4th till the end of the year you are working for free.

 

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Lyubomira Kirilova

Lyubomira Kirilova

Mira is a new member of UWN team. She recently graduated in International Relations and Journalism at the University of the West of England, Bristol. She is interested in cinema, literature and environmental issues. Based in London, she is presently blogging about current affairs and issues relating to women entrepreneurs.
Lyubomira Kirilova

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