Top jobs for the boys? Occupational segregation and the gender pay gap

    Now that large companies are legally obliged to report their gender pay gap, the figures show that 78% of firms pay men more than women.

     

    Theresa May said this week: "When I became prime minister, I highlighted the injustice that if you are a woman in this country, you will earn less than a man. The national gender pay gap is at a historic low — but the fact that one systemically exists at all is rightly provoking a national debate."

    Since the legislation came into force, over 10,000 large firms have reported their gender pay gap, and almost 80% reported a gender pay gap in favour of men. The official statistics show that men hold the majority of higher paid jobs. They also get paid higher bonuses, and part-time male executives are paid more than part-time female executives.

    But, not everyone agrees with the Prime Minister that the gender pay gap is a problem that must be addressed.

    “The gender pay gap is a myth, a fabrication. There is an earnings gap between men and women, but not a pay gap. Do the same job as men and you will be paid the same amount of money.” Journalist Rod Liddle (The Spectator) represents a widely held view that women do not get paid unequally, and instead choose to work in different - lower paid - jobs. 

    A look at the stats confirms that women do indeed work in different jobs. Most chief executives are male, and most secretaries and care workers are female.


    Proportion of male and female full-time employees by occupation, UK 2017:


    Understanding ‘occupational segregation’

    “When employment within an occupation is heavily skewed towards either men or women, it is likely to introduce occupational segregation – where some occupations become more attractive than others to either men or women.” (ONS)

    So long as higher paid occupations are not seen as welcoming to women, it’s unlikely the gender pay gap will close.

    It’s well known in recruitment that women tend to apply for positions only when they meet 100% of the listed requirements, but men will apply if they’re a 60% fit. (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development)

    It’s also common sense that people apply for positions where they expect to fit in well.


    “If women aren’t coming forward, that’s your fault, not theirs: you have failed to provide a work environment that treats men and women equally. Because men have shaped our pay structures, management practices and all other aspects of our workplaces over centuries, the majority of our workplaces are friendlier and more familiar to men." (NewStatesman)

    So what happens next?

    The 2018 gender pay gap statistics show that women in their 50s earn significantly less than men of the same age. Even taking into account other factors, (such as part-time working) women’s earnings don’t grow as much as men’s do as they become more experienced workers.

    For 2017 women’s pay growth in respect of age was lower than men’s pay growth. (ONS)

    The stats show that the gender pay gap is smaller for younger employees. It’s encouraging to imagine that younger women today will have equal earning potential to their male 
    contemporaries and that as they develop their careers their earnings will keep pace with the men.

    The next UK gender pay gap report will be out in 2019 and the figures will show if the gap is closing. Australia has tracked the gender pay gap since 1997
     and it has increased for ten of the last twenty years.

    Time will tell if the Prime Minister’s plan to close the UK gender pay gap will fare any better.