Post-Pandemic Setback: Fewer Women Among Top Earners in the City

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The Covid-19 pandemic has significantly hindered progress towards workplace equality, making it even less likely for women to become top earners in the City of London.

According to research from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), men are now over four times more likely than women to be among the highest earners, with women constituting just 19.4% of the top 1% of income earners, down from 19.7% pre-pandemic.

Grace Lordan, a professor at the LSE, described the trend as a regression. “We are going backwards,” she stated. Without substantial change, she fears that in a decade, the situation will remain unchanged.

The United Nations had warned during the pandemic that Covid-19 could reverse decades of progress in gender equality. Women are disproportionately represented in lower-paid work, single-parent households, and unpaid domestic roles. This regression was starkly highlighted by a professional woman interviewed by the University of Sussex researchers, who felt forced into the traditional housewife role against her will.

Since the end of the Covid crisis, concerns have persisted about the slow progress in promoting women to senior positions. In 2021, Catherine Mann, a member of the Bank of England’s rate-setting committee, highlighted that women, more likely than men to work from home, risked being sidelined in a “two tracks of employment” scenario, where office-based workers receive more promotions.

A review by MPs earlier this year found minimal progress in addressing gender inequality within the traditionally male-dominated City of London. Despite recognizing the pervasive sexism in finance, the Government resisted implementing recommended measures to combat misogyny in the sector.

The UK’s gender pay gap widened from 14.3% to 14.5% in 2022, surpassing the global average of 13.5%. PwC attributes this increase to the “motherhood penalty” and inadequate support for women undergoing menopause, both contributing factors to the reversal of gender equality advancements in Britain.

Anna Lane of Women in Banking and Finance argues that the situation calls for more radical solutions. “Isn’t it time to establish hard quotas for women in executive, managing director, and director positions? This is our moment to think boldly,” she asserted.

As the gender pay gap grows and the representation of women among top earners declines, the call for decisive action to address these disparities becomes more urgent. The post-pandemic era presents both challenges and opportunities for redefining workplace equality in the UK.

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