September 7

Gender Inequality; what you need to know about the Gender Pay Gap

The World Economic Forum predicts it will take more than two centuries to close the gender pay gap……are you willing to wait?

I’m sure you have heard about the Gender Pay gap. How much do you know about it? 

Do you know the personal impact to you? 

Let’s start with the facts. 

  • In the US it is shown that over a lifetime a women with a bachelors degrees in business earns $1.1 million less than men with a bachelor’s degree in business.
  • Non adjusted average female’s annual salary is 79-81% of the average male salary. 
  • Adjusted average salary is 95% taking into account differences in hours worked, occupations chosen etc
  • Research shows that women need an extra degree to earn the same as a man. 

I could share facts upon facts but the underlying message is that for the same role women are experiencing pay inequality. This is one component of gender inequality, which must be fixed to allow us to truly achieve gender equality. 

Lack of race in the gender pay gap discussion

What is often left out of gender pay gap discussions is race. We all hear the numbers of 79 cents or 81 cents women earn in comparison to every dollar a man earns. This number specifically refers in general to overall or white women.

66% of white women in the US agree that women are paid less than men for doing similar work, however only 34% of white women think that non-white women are paid less than white women for doing similar work.

The reality shows that there is a significant racial pay gap in the US, in addition to the gender pay gap. Research shows this applies to black women, Native American women and Latinos. Latest figures shows that among women who hold full-time, year-round jobs in the US, black women are typically paid 61 cents, Native American women 58 cents and Latinas just 53 cents for every dollar paid to white men. 

As you continue with your gender equal pay discussions please ensure that you are fighting for all women, not just women who look like you. 

Women Can’t Win

As written in the recent white paper aptly titled ‘Women Can’t Win’ despite making education gains, and pursuing high-wage majors, women are not closing the wage gap with men. 

The report tells us that women are doing all the right things. They are going to college in greater numbers than men, pursuing majors that offer higher incomes, and graduating college in greater numbers than men. Despite these achievements women are still not making money on a par with their male colleagues. 

There is no easy answer and a complex set of reasons has kept this gender wage disparity in place. One of the issues is very clear and obvious. Discrimination in pay for the same set of qualifications and experience persists in our society. 

Why does the gender pay gap continue? 

There are those who say that the reality of the gender wage gap is due to the jobs and careers that women choose. This argument states that women chose to go into lower paying careers. 

How much of this is truly by choice? 

For some women it is. For others it is based on the patriarchal society in which we live. Women are told and shown the types of jobs they should go after, and even when they go after higher paying careers their progress is stunted. The patriarchal environment, in which a lot of women work (and society as a whole) does not create or allow an environment in which women can get access or succeed in senior role, at the same rate as their male counterparts. 

The changes that need to happen to make change are legal, social and economic.

The Motherhood Penalty

This is term coined by sociologists who believe that in the workplace, working mothers encounter systematic disadvantages in pay and perceived competence relative to childless women. Women may suffer a per-child wage penalty, resulting in a pay gap between non-mothers and mothers that is larger than the gap between men and women. 

Women with children make less than men with children or women without children. 

What progress are we making….

In my humble opinion…..feck all. 

The wage gap is closing but only at an incremental amount each year. Many organisations have different ideas and research on how long it will take to close the gender pay gap but I can tell you none of them show short term resolution.

The World Economic Forum says, globally, it will take 202 years to close the gender pay gap (dated 2019). In their research they believe that gender equality progress has stalled. They found that globally on average across the world women are paid just 63% of what men earn. There is not a single country where women are paid as much as men. 

According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, focused on the US market, it will take until 2059 to reach pay parity for white women. For women of colour this date is even further in the future. Black women will have to wait until 2119 and Hispanic women until 2224.

This would mean that the majority of us would have no hope of reaching equal pay in our life time. 

Are you willing to live the remainder of your working life being paid less than you deserve? 

What can we do to move forward

To make changes for the future each and every person (male and female) needs to be focused on making positive changes. 

It can feel like you cannot make an impact but as Maya Angelou says; ’Everytime a women stands up for herself she stands up for all women’. This is true of us all.

The more individual change that is made the wider the impact. Each and every time you stand up for yourself you are not only benefiting yourself but also your peers, and those women who will follow in your foot steps.

From a personal and corporate perspective we need to focus on the following. 

Wage Transparency; 

Many employers tell you that your salary is confidential information and should not be discussed with your colleagues. During my career, especially the early part of it, I can honestly say I bought this party line.

However, as my career progressed  I realised this is to benefit the employer and the managers within the organisation.

I don’t think you should go around the office telling everyone your salary. However, you know there are people you can trust. If you genuinely believe you are underpaid for your role or in comparison to your colleagues it’s time to do some research, both internally and externally. 

Research the going rate in the market for the role you are currently in (or applying for), talk to peers you can trust to ascertain the average pay scale within the department and speak with your manager & HR. 

Governments are now becoming more aware of the need for wage transparency at a corporate level. In the UK, in 2017, it was made compulsory for companies with more than 250 employees to report their gender pay gap figures at the end of every financial year. We have yet to see this reporting create change but hopefully over time this will have an impact. 

Review Promotions Processes; 

Women are not being promoted at the same rate as their male colleagues. Due to this they are not receiving access to higher paying roles. This in turn is leading to greater gender pay inequality. 

There is substantial evidence that shows equally or less qualified men get promoted ahead of women. The most likely explanation is unconscious bias. 

Women are often held to higher standards than their male counterparts and not just by men, but by other women. Women are more critical of their own performances and therefore in turn hold other women to these higher standards. 

If you have any say in the promotion process it is your responsibility to ensure the process is fair and holds everyone to the same standards. Often we find the traits expected in women and men differ. Women are expected to be ‘likeable’. We hear women referred to as ‘too assertive’ or ‘aggressive’, which are seen as negative traits or behaviours. However, in men these terms are never used, we often hear terms like assertive used in a position term. 

It is your responsibility, man or woman, to ensure you are listening, aware and calling out these unconscious biases. When I sat on promotion committees I saw this as a huge responsibility. Being involved in the promotions committees and processes is never about you, and should always be about doing the right thing by the candidates. 

Increase female salaries 

If I could wave a magic wand I would immediately create pay parity across the sexes, for equal roles with equal performance. 

For some reason this is often seen as a contentious approach, which continues to baffle me. I am not advocating for increased pay where it is not warranted. 

All organisations, with the courage to do so, should compare like for like salaries across their organisation and increase salaries (across both sexes) to create parity. 

Yes, there may be a cost to doing so.

Yet, there is a significant social and economic impact for not doing so. Research shows that there will be a significant positive impact to the global economy when women reach equal pay. 

Encourage parental leave; 

There are some great organisations out there that offer parental leave (and many that have appalling policies). In those with good policies often while parental leave is available it is frowned upon to use it. It is time to normalise using your parental leave, for both men and women 

This is definitely one way in which men can support women. The more men seen taking the parental leave the more normalised it becomes for women to use their parental leave entitlements. 

Supportive Spouse

Change needs to happen in the home. Women, relative to men in couples, often on more responsibility in the home, with or without children. 

While doing research I came across this great article, which talks about the impact of having a supportive (or unsupportive) spouse on your career. Even with the most supportive couples, change can take place within a relationship. Many men consider themselves supportive on their spouse, until the that such time as they perceive it as interfering with their own career. If you want to learn more about this topic read the below article. 



Men are more likely to have mentors and sponsors at work that speak for their accomplishments, while women’s accomplishments have to stand out on their own. 

Find yourself a mentor and a sponsor; someone who is in the role or position you are striving towards. They need to be someone you respect, someone who shows traits you admire and that you believe will be willing to support your journey. 

Ask for the raise or the promotion you deserve 

You deserve to be paid what you are worth, and you deserve your accomplishments to be acknowledged. 

It is critical as women that we advocate for ourselves. Many women wait, hoping that someone will recognise their hard work, and reward them for it. This isn’t the time for you to wait and you need to be proactive. 

Be someone who is proactive about progressing their career, with the performance to support your desires.

Prepare for this discussion with the following information; 

  • Document your achievements in clear terms
  • Create financial gains associated with your achievements
  • Ask your mentors and sponsors to advocate for you
  • Don’t use your current or previous pay as benchmark. Investigate the rates your role gets in the industry
  • Be willing to make a change to get the salary you deserve. 

Societal Expectations & Barriers

It starts at home and in the schools. 

There are many societal barriers and expectations that set young girls on the track for their careers very early in life. 

We as society, set boys and girls, on track for their future lives much earlier than many of us recognise. Focusing girls to play with dolls, or boys to play with trucks is just one basic example. The language we use with children is also children. How many times have you heard a young girl referred to as bossy? Now, how many times have you heard this word used to describe a boy? 

Young girls hear regular references to being the ‘weaker’ or ‘lesser’ sex. If you don’t believe this to be true just listen to the language used every day. Have you recently heard terms like ‘run like a girl’ (not a compliment), ‘grow a pair of balls’ (one of the weakest body parts out there) or being told that ‘boys must not cry’ (thereby implying it is a negative to show emotions)?

Are you bought into the myth that boys need to be tough and girls need to be caring?

These sterotypes negatively impact both girls and boys, and are carried into the workplace where men are expected to be ‘competent’ and women are expected to be ‘likeable’. 

Tip: When describing a characteristic of a woman, ask yourself, ‘would I ever use this word to describe a man?’ (and vice versa). If not, then look for a term without gender connotations.

It is all our responsibility to break down the barriers that stereotypes create, at an early age. 

To read further tips on how to Negotiate your Salary go read my latest blog

Top Ten Tips for Women to Negotiate your Salary


2020, career, equal pay, feminism, feminist, gender equality, gender inequality, pay, pay parity, salary, salary negotiation, women's equality day

You may also like

Wait, Where Are All The Women?

Wait, Where Are All The Women?
Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Subscribe to my weekly newsletter!