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In this, the eighth anniversary year of the Equality Act, we have data—for the first time—that reports on the scale of the gender pay gap in private business and the public sector. By and large, the results make for difficult reading; of the 10,016 public and private bodies eligible to report, 7,795 reported figures that revealed men are paid more than women, based on the median hourly pay.
While all those companies reporting particularly damning data have gone to lengths to underscore that these statistics do not represent unequal pay for equal work, they do reveal structural inequalities that speak to a gendered epidemic: our professional ecosystems leave women behind.
The “opportunity gap”- as it will be referred to in this article, is a strident issue for most female professionals, not only for how it impacts remuneration but also for its capacity to blockade women from senior leadership positions. The disconnect between opportunity and pay underpins the issue of the gender pay gap; it was discovered that while women occupy the greater majority of junior roles, the number of female professionals in senior or managerial positions diminishes significantly. Despite women making up 47% of the workforce, only 35% transition into managerial positions, and even fewer women go on to be directors or senior officials.
While the 2010 Equality Act made it impossible for employers to pay the genders differently, as the Gender Pay Gap Report highlights, unconscious biases remain rife in our workplaces, and certainly have a lot to answer for. Most costly is how ingrained gender bias informs perceptions about female colleagues, not least in informing our perception of female ambition and professional aspiration. As the Equality and Human Rights Commission describes, colleagues are wont to make “assumptions about women not wanting to accept promotion, or not being in a position to do so, particularly where they have caring responsibilities” (The Equality and Human Rights Commission.)
This is certainly played out in the
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