This month it was revealed that Chester was the ‘most sexist city’ in the UK with a gender pay gap of 54.4%. Crawley came a close second with a gap above 50%. Both cities are in contrast to the national gender pay gap which currently sits at 9.4%.
Proudly leading the way was Belfast, with a significantly lower percentage of 18.9%. Yet, the top ten 'least sexist cities' still had significant gaps, with London conspicuously missing from the list. This will be disappointing for residents, who view London as a socially progressive leader, and for mayor Sadiq Khan who last year expressed that London’s pay gap was “unacceptable”.
London’s shortcomings are no surprise when you consider over half of the FTSE 100 have their headquarters in the capital. The recently released 2017 Hampton-Alexander Review shows that 28% of their board positions are occupied by women. The review has also urged all companies in the FTSE 350 to meet the target of having 33% of their senior leadership positions filled by women by 2020. It points out that despite the fact that the FTSE 100 is on track, progress seems to have slowed outside of it.
Additionally, CIPD has called for 20% of executive directors to be women by 2020. However, this will clearly be more difficult for some companies than others. Despite there being more than twice as many women in the boardroom today than there were in 2011, there are still eight organisations with all-male boards. These non-movers in the gender representation rankings include big names like Stobart, 888 and Sports Direct.
Parental leave vs career progression
One of the main challenges to increase these figures is to get more women in the “pipeline”. Lady Barbara Judge, Chair of the Institute of Directors, says that ending the idea of “boy jobs and girl jobs” is vital (perhaps something that should be adopted in the May household). Judge argues the importance of improving parental leave entitlements for men as well as women, to encourage men to take more parental responsibilities.
According to the Fawcett Society who have dubbed the 10th November as equal pay day – the day in which women will begin working the rest of the year for free - women make up a higher percentage of carers. Yet contrastingly, in areas where there is a higher rate of people working in the public sector, women will tend to earn more. Also, for roles within the financial industry – which are prominent within the city of London, the gender pay gap gets much higher, which is demonstrated in the ONS handy gender pay gap tool.
Statistics have shown that it’s when a woman decides to have a baby that her career and salary take a dip. The combined challenges of paying for childcare and the lack of equal parental leave has meant many women feel forced into taking a career break to care for their children.
The Women and Equalities Committee found that a more balanced parental leave system is needed, where men are paid 90% of their salary for at least four weeks, rather than the statutory, and hard to live on, £139 a week rate. A fairer system would give more options to men and women in their parenting and careers, as well as help tackle the pay gap.
Women being represented at the highest levels of the UK’s largest companies is vital to redressing the imbalance in pay. But it’s not just the big companies that need to make a difference; Theresa May has encouraged small businesses to release their pay gap data and has encouraged them to help reduce the pay gap by offering flexible work “from day one”. However, the TUC General Secretary has echoed frustrations that many feel are fair, that only “encouraging” companies to make improvements will only lead to change at a ”snail's pace”.
Next April, all companies with 250 employees or more working in the UK will have to reveal their gender pay gap stats.