Most employers still fail to appreciate the business advantages of breaking down gender barriers, according to the body that advises the government on employment policy.
In its report on the effect of occupational segregation on the gender pay gap, the Trade and Industry Committee said attempts to tackle the problems that deter women from taking certain jobs were only occurring in isolation.
“We are not asking businesses to behave altruistically… but we do expect them to behave fairly, and to be aware of the effect on their competitiveness of a failure to act,” the report said.
It warned that the view that certain jobs, such as senior managerial posts, are unsuited to flexible and part-time working is still “accepted far too uncritically”.
However, the committee said that the right to request flexible working should not be extended, as the development of best practice would be more effective than any statutory requirements. It also shied away from recommending compulsory pay audits.
The committee criticised the government for refusing to review the Equal Pay Act 1970, which it described as “reaching the limits of its usefulness”.
“We regret that the government appears to be ruling changes out as ‘too difficult’ without having undertaken a serious review of the options,” said the report.
It also calls for an investigation into the merits of a duty on the public sector to promote gender equality akin to the requirement to tackle racial discrimination.
Women’s pay only comes top in four roles
There are only four professions where the gender pay gap favours women.
Evidence suggests that women earn more than men in pharmacy roles, modelling, pornography and prostitution.
The HR profession – supposedly the guardians of equality in the workplace – is paying female HR managers on average 8,000 less than their male counterparts.
The gender pay gap, which presently stands at 14.4% for full-time work, is not just due to direct discrimination, according to the Equal Opportunities Commission.
The EOC’s Modelling Gender Pay Gaps report puts it down to:
– 41% – Discrimination and other factors affecting the choice of employment by women (with occupational segregation being a major element)
– 36% – Differences in employment patterns (the greater tendency for women to experience breaks in employment)
– 15% – Lower pay in sectors and occupations with higher proportions of women in the workforce
– 8% – Traditionally, women have spent less time in full-time education than men so have had lower educational qualifications