Why the gender pay gap issue is not going away

The political storm of summer 2016 has paused for breath during August, while Members of Parliament have joined much of the country in escaping to sunnier climes.

This has allowed the news agenda to briefly move away from Brexit, and two stories that have come to the fore as a result have both been connected to the same issue – the gender gap.

News released from the Institute of Fiscal Studies in August has revealed the shocking statistic that women who become mothers could see their hourly pay fall up to 33% behind men by the time their child reaches the age of 12 (compared to an overall gender pay gap of about 18%). This follows on from research AAT carried out in March showing that women are generally less bullish than men when it comes to asking for – and getting – a pay rise. It throws up questions as to how companies can work to ensure that women are not heavily penalised in terms of career progression due to their wish to start a family.

Meanwhile another gender gap remains firmly in place. Many thousands of teenagers throughout the country have been receiving their exam results in the past few weeks, and the national picture shows that nearly 80% of girls achieve A* to C grades at A-Levels, compared to 75% of boys;  while at GCSE level female pupils have increased the gap of achieving at least C-grades to 8.9%. The gap corresponds to a much higher intake of females at university, with 94,000 more having applied by this year’s January deadline.

So on the one hand girls are academically performing strongly, and yet this is not being reflected in their overall remuneration package later in life. If academic performance is not necessarily conducive to being paid at a strong level or progressing in your career, the answer may be found in seeking an alternative route to your chosen profession.

During a survey AAT conducted over the summer, 62% of students expecting their exam results told us they felt careers guidance was skewed towards going down the academic route, rather than a vocational course such as taking part in an apprenticeship scheme. Despite this, there is a growing realisation that gaining vocational qualifications can be just as valid a route into the workplace especially among women, with two in three AAT members being female.

Perhaps one way in helping reduce the gender pay gap will be for even more women to put their achievements into practice by entering the workplace at an earlier stage having gained industry-recognised qualifications, avoiding the debt levels associated with university and being able to command authority through working their way up in their chosen place of work.

Adam Harwood is AAT's Media Relations Manager.

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