UK Gender Pay Gap Set to Close in 45 Years, Experts Warn

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The gender pay gap in Britain is narrowing, but at a slower pace, with companies still grappling to promote women into senior roles, according to a recent analysis.

PwC, the Big Four accounting firm, reported that the average male worker earned 11.8 per cent more than the average female last year, a slight improvement from the 12.2 per cent gap in 2022 and the 12.9 per cent in 2021. Although the gender pay gap has decreased for three consecutive years, PwC noted that the “rate of change remains modest”. At this pace, it is projected to take over 45 years for the gap to close completely, leaving parity “out of sight for a 21-year-old woman entering the workforce today”.

Out of approximately 10,000 businesses that report their gender pay gaps, six in ten showed improvement last year, though most reductions were less than two percentage points. Conversely, a fifth of companies reported no change or a worsening gap, a slight increase from the previous year.

“While the gender pay gap continues to move in the right direction, the data highlights that organisations are facing difficulties in meaningfully reducing reporting figures,” said Katy Bennett, diversity and inclusion consulting director at PwC. “Societal barriers play a strong part, but there are still things businesses can do to drive change.”

Gender pay data does not indicate that men are paid more than women for the same job, which has been illegal in the UK since 1970. Instead, it reflects that more men occupy senior, higher-paying roles than women. Despite efforts to enhance diversity at the top of organisations, companies are still struggling, with reasons ranging from childcare responsibilities slowing women’s career progression to a lack of visible female leaders limiting ambition. Additionally, sexism among senior decision-makers persists as a contributing factor.

PwC faced its own diversity challenge this year when its predominantly male partners overlooked two female candidates for the role of the next boss, opting for the only male candidate. This decision prevented PwC from becoming the first of the Big Four firms in the UK to be led by a woman. Currently, about 28 per cent of Big Four partners in Britain are women, compared to nearly a 50-50 gender split in their overall workforces.

This issue extends beyond the Big Four. Among the 350 largest companies listed on the London Stock Exchange, only 21 have female chief executives.

PwC’s gender pay gap report revealed that the financial services industry had the largest disparity between men’s and women’s pay, reflecting ongoing gender equality issues within the sector. However, this sector, along with travel and technology companies, also reported the most significant decreases in pay gaps last year.

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