Gender pay gap – women over 40

Sheila Fahy

For reasons I am not disclosing, I was drawn to the Government’s announcement last week that it will be targeting the gender pay gap in relation to women over the age of 40. It is widely known that the overall gender pay gap currently stands at 19.5%, but when the figures are analysed a little deeper, an altogether different story emerges.

Looking purely at figures for full-time employment, the gender pay gap is just below 10%. Once the data is divided into age groups, the gap varies significantly. Interestingly, during the peak child-bearing period, women earn more or almost the same as men. Specifically, between the ages of 22 and 29, a woman earns around 3% more than a man, before a slight gap emerges for women in their 30s. However, it is once a woman has established a family and/or career that her pay will take a steep nose-dive: the gap is at 15.3% for women in their 40s, and increases to 18.4% for women in their 50s.Gender pay gap

There are undoubtedly complex and multi-dimensional reasons for the differential, an issue that the Women and Equalities Committee will be examining. The three areas of focus are:

  • How effective will the Government’s proposals be in reducing the gender pay gap faced by women over 40?
  • Are there any changes that would help reduce the gap more quickly or effectively?
  • What could be done to improve the position of women over 40 when it comes to recruitment, retention, promotion and training?

This particular issue demonstrates perfectly that a pay gap of itself is meaningless. The data needs careful analysis, examining role, age, business group, etc, to identify where the problems lie and whether there are explanations for the findings. Only then can resources be directed towards reducing any real gap.

Gender pay gap – useful link

Women and Equalities Committee – Inquiry page

Comments published on Employment Talk do not necessarily reflect the views of Allen & Overy.

Read comments below or add a comment
  1. Rachel says:

    The data supports what we’ve suspected to be the case for decades. Only when women start to be less accepting of their pay and more assertive will real change be brought about. This doesn’t necessarily mean bringing equal pay claims but perhaps we need to be a bit less grateful and a bit more challenging in discussions about pay or at least have the discussion in the first place. What’s the worst that can happen?

    • Sheila Fahy says:

      Absolutely agree. Women need to be more courageous in starting those discussions, and managers (particularly male ones) need to appreciate that this is not something that comes naturally to most women

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