Action needs to be taken by individual organisations and at a sector-wide level to close the gender pay gap and improve gender balance in some occupations, the government has said, as it unveils a package of measures to tackle “lifetime” gender inequality.
Launched by the Government Equalities Office today, the Gender Equality Roadmap aims to address eight key drivers of gender inequality: from the limiting attitudes to gender that hold people back in pursuing a career, to women taking more time out to work to provide informal and unpaid care.
Gender pay gap
It finds that, despite doing better in education, women are over three times more likely to work part time and are less likely to progress in work than men. They also generally work in lower paying industries and occupations – more than half of all UK women work in health, education and retail – and have lower pension wealth.
The proportion of women in employment was 8.9 percentage points lower than men in 2018, the Gender Equality Monitor report, also released today, says.
Women and equalities minister Penny Mordaunt said women often lack the choices and opportunities that many men have, and as a consequence are not as financially resilient or independent.
She said: “This inequality is faced at every stage of a woman’s life – from how she is treated in the classroom, to the caring roles she often takes on, and the lack of savings or pension she accumulates. This roadmap is intended to define and guide how we tackle the barriers women face as they journey through life.
“I’m confident today’s announcement will be the first step in a long-term commitment by this government to empower everyone in this country, helping them truly reach their full potential, from birth to retirement.”
The roadmap sets out plans to:
- Encourage sector-wide gender equality strategies and tailored equality initiatives for organisations, prioritising sectors that are strongly associated with one gender, including: health, education, retail, financial services, construction and engineering. Gender disparities in apprenticeships will also be looked at;
- Assess the effectiveness of gender pay gap reporting in exposing the causes of pay gaps and employers’ progress in tackling them. It plans to consult on any proposed changes by 2021;
- Launch a national campaign to help employers understand how they can help staff balance work and care, based on “world-leading” research;
- Continue to develop and test behavioural interventions to improve gender equality at work, including the publication of an “actions for employers toolkit” later this year;
- Investigate ways to make Universal Credit work better for women;
- Continue to evaluate the shared parental leave programme, following limited uptake. By the end of 2019 the government said it would have the evidence needed to consider how it can be modernised
- Consult on dedicated employment rights for carers, including carer’s leave;
- Help returners to identify job opportunities through Jobcentre Plus and help businesses offer and promote returner schemes.
A new Women’s Business Council will focus on making sure individual sectors are tackling pay gaps and ensuring female staff are given the same opportunities as their male colleagues.
Sheila Flavell, chief operating officer at professional services consultancy FDM Group, said the roadmap will help ensure men and women can progress in their careers, while juggling their home life.
“It’s inspiring to see a cross-government initiative designed to address gender inequality in the workplace. This proactive approach is critical for tackling issues such as pay gap discrepancies, unconscious discrimination and the barriers which all too often prevent people from getting ahead in their careers,” she said.
There is still a stark gender imbalance in financial wellbeing, said Jeanette Makings, head of financial education at Close Brothers, which she said was a reminder of the “scale of the challenge” that many women and employers face.
“The pressures and financial circumstances of female employees are often different to those of their male counterparts, so the level and focus of financial education on offer needs to reflect that.
“But the good news is that these issues are solvable. Once the key pinch points for financial wellbeing have been identified, employers should be better prepared to provide tailored strategies to improve women’s financial health and confidence.”
Acas head of diversity, Julie Dennis, said: “The government’s new report shows that there’s a clear divide between men and women when it comes to high paid and senior jobs. Having children also adversely impacts career prospects for women compared to men.
“We welcome these new proposals that aim to reduce gender inequality within UK workplaces.”