Mind the gap: why commute time is on the front line of the gender pay gap

Mind the gap: why commute time is on the front line of the gender pay gap

In 2018, LexisNexis reported on the opportunity gap that underpins the endemic problem of gendered wage disparity in the UK. Discussing the discrepancies between the genders, we explored the competing and complex influences that underscore the opportunity gap and prevent women from achieving fiscal parity with their male counterparts.

While there are still a variety of urgent office-based factors that underlie the wage gap, socio-economic factors certainly have their role to play. When it comes to identifying origins of the gender pay gap, it is important to take a broader view of society’s ecosystems to understand the symptoms of inequality. Surveying the imbalance in commute time is an interesting lens through which to examine equality of opportunity; in a survey undertaken by the Office for National Statistics, it was found that on average men make up 65% of those whose commutes last more than an hour. Only a small nucleus of women makes the same journey, with a mere 34% of women deciding to commute out of region for work. Overall, female professionals favour 1-15-minute commutes. While few would dispute the relief of avoiding an overcrowded commuter train—this disparity has more to answer for than you might think. In this article, we discuss the possible ramifications of a gendered commute, and the reasons why women appear to prioritise local working.

A commuter haven, London attracts a global workforce. Legally speaking, this is no less true; talented and ambitious lawyers from all over the country continue to be drawn to London based, Magic Circle law firms compared to smaller, less prestigious, regional law firms. These firms are the natural home of the best and brightest talent as the most direct pathway for achieving their career aspirations. However, like the majority of businesses nationally, Magic Circle law firms suffer from a gender gap. Highlighted in data published by The Law Society, less than 19% of partners in Magic Circle law firms were women, and fewer than half of all associate and trainee lawyers were female.  

In this context, the type of commuter travelling into London takes on significance and helps us understand the pool of talent entering the City each day. Over 70% of commuters in London and the South East are male. Though this trend is echoed nationally, it is particularly prevalent in this region; only 38% of workers commuting into London are women—it seems men continue to

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About the author:
Catherine is one of the Future of Law's digital editors. She graduated from Durham University with a degree in English Literature and worked at a barristers chambers before joining Lexis Nexis.