Thanks to the introduction of the “national living wage”, forcing companies to pay workers aged 25 and over a minimum of £7.20 an hour, it was revealed last week that low paid workers have seen the biggest rise in pay since the 1990s. The rise was prominent amongst women and part-time workers so it also contributed to a decrease in the gender pay gap

…of 0.2%


At the same time, the World Economic Forum, a leading global partnership best known for its Davos conferences, has published a report finding that the gap will take 170 years to close. The report on the Global Gender Gap Index also found that on average a man’s working day lasts 7 hours 47 minutes with 1 hour 30 minutes of unpaid work, whilst women, on average, work for 8 hours and 39 minutes per day and are not paid for 4 hours 47 minutes of that day. To help raise awareness of these uncomfortable differences, 10th November 2016 is this year’s Equal Pay Day. Notionally, it’s the day when the average full-time female UK employee stops earning for the year compared to the average full-time man.

Despite the fact that the gender pay gap is more universally acknowledged and being targeted by policy-makers, it’s still up there alongside climate change on the ‘List of Things a Corner of the Internet Doesn’t Believe In’ (I know, I’ve got the Twitter trolls to prove it). So, how do people manage to explain away the pay gap?

The gender pay gap is calculated from data drawn from the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings by the Office of National Statistics (ONS). The ONS headline estimates of the gender pay gap are for hourly median earnings excluding overtime. They use median earnings rather than mean so the data is not affected by extreme values at either end of the spectrum. However, although hourly pay excluding overtime provides a useful comparison of men’s and women’s earnings, it does not give us much to explain the cause of the inequality.

One driver is the type of work men and women do. The lowest paid occupation group – caring, leisure and other service occupations – has a higher proportion of women working full-time (78%). This, most likely, explains why the introduction of the National Living Wage has helped a little in closing the gender pay gap.

I (a woman) have also been told before (by a man) that women do not want high paying jobs as they would rather work part time, or in a lower paid job with more flexibility, in order to take care of a family. Therein lies the underlying stereotype and expectation that it is mothers who should be the primary care giver, leaving fathers out in the cold or rather at the office. It’s true that having and caring for children is one important factor: according to the ONS, in part women tend to earn less than men because part time work pays less. However, there is also evidence showing that the gender pay gap is higher in countries where childcare is less accessible; indicating women are more likely to be working part time out of necessity rather than choice.

It is difficult to measure the contributing factors of the gender pay gap due to their unquantifiable nature. For example, Europa has previously listed “direct discrimination” and the “undervaluing of women’s work” as contributing factors, but gaining statistical evidence on how highly these effect women’s pay is near impossible. Recent reports have shown that women are less likely than men to be assertive in the workplace, particularly when it comes to asking for pay rises or writing emails (with the word just being overused by women substantially more than men).

This equal pay day we should all work on battling gender stereotypes and the expectations they create, placing limits on us all regarding the choices we make as colleagues, bosses, friends and as parents. Get involved online via #equalpayday.

Editor’s note: Atlas Partners Researcher, Martha Cleary, will be raising a glass to celebrate the fact that there are still battles in life worth fighting on equal pay day, 10th November.