Chloé Chambraud - Gender Research & Policy Manager
Last week the Chartered Management Institute published research which found that the gender pay gap between male and female managers is wider than the overall gap, and that it often starts after women come back from maternity leave when they are shunted into part-time or less challenging roles. By the time female managers reach the age of 40, on average they’re earning 35% less than their male colleagues.* The survey also found that female managers’ average bonuses were smaller than men’s, and that the gap also widened as women reached more senior positions.
Project 28-40 found that many women are put off by the demands of senior lifestyles such as long hours and high stress. This news is likely to discourage them even more. After all, what’s the point of putting in the effort to win a managerial role, much less stay in it, if you’re going to get paid less than the man sitting next to you? If women are being ‘turned off’ from applying to senior roles for these reasons, there is a risk that the highest levels of business will continue to be male-dominated, particularly at executive director level.
Some will argue that this only affects older women and that the gap will shrink as women currently in the early stages of their careers progress into more senior positions. But we know from our Benchmark that women are less likely to be rated as ‘high potential’, regardless of age, which in turn reduces their access to training programmes and other opportunities that lead to leadership roles. And if women aren’t being promoted, but aren’t given interesting or stretching work either, they might choose to leave the organisation altogether. That means both individual women and employers lose out, particularly given research from McKinsey shows that the top quartile of gender-diverse companies were 15% more likely to outperform the bottom quartile financially.
So we need organisations to show they are serious about having the right people in the right jobs by ensuring their appraisal and progression processes are fair and inclusive. That means monitoring data to see who’s accessing leadership programmes, equality-proofing core competencies and ensuring selection criteria are fully transparent. We’d also encourage all employers to conduct and publish an equal pay audit and to report any gaps at each level, particularly ahead of the introduction of mandatory gender pay gap reporting for large companies.
Finally, why should it be assumed that women stay at home and do all the childcare whilst men go out and work all hours? Project 28-40 showed that 42% of men don’t want the senior lifestyle either, so they shouldn’t feel forced into such jobs in exactly the same way women shouldn’t feel forced into giving up work or cutting their hours. Instead, we need employers to have open, honest conversations with all their employees about agile working, and to provide them with the right support to work flexibly where possible.
The gender pay gap is a complicated thing. It’s more than simply not having equal pay for equal work. It is influenced by the concentration of men in high-paid senior roles; women being stereotyped into lower-paid functions and industries; the historical undervaluing of ‘women’s work’; the amount of unpaid domestic work shouldered by women; the number of women working part-time; personal ‘choice’ – the list goes on. Changing that status quo requires a significant shift in employers’ mindsets – but that shift is vital if we’re going to create the organisational change for men and women at all levels to have equal lives at work and at home.