Why the Gender Pay Gap short-changes us all

I have been reading about an amazing yet largely unknown eighteenth century Scotswoman Mary Somerville. She was born in Burntisland and became one of the most celebrated scientific authors in history. Her outstanding contribution to knowledge in the face of sexism and exclusion is commemorated in the Oxford College which bears her name. She was a woman in a man's world who had what we now call "STEM skills" in abundance. She transformed science, of course it's all changed since then - but how much? Women are still severely underrepresented in a wide range of fields. The Scottish government have just released a report on the Gender pay gap saying that women are paid on average 6% less than men and that difference multiplies when they become mothers. The graphic on page 9 says it all.

The CIPD in the shape of reward adviser Charles Cotton gave evidence to that enquiry. As Charles pointed out (and women must be sick of hearing), pay rates are identical but women suffer a biological earnings penalty. They also suffer a fair work penalty with more women being in part time and insecure employment. This is true throughout Europe.

Back in February CIPD Scotland worked with City HR and Oracle, with Standard Life as our hosts to examine the value of what we termed the Difference Dividend - you can find the report here. That's the value in Financial Services of the diversity of thought and capability which comes from promoting more women into key roles. A recent McKinsey report shows that in the global economy a staggering $12 trillion could be added to the global economy through increasing women's equality by 2023. This is a conservative estimate of the return in giving women in the worst countries parity with men, yet it’s equal to the size of the economies of the U.K., Germany and Japan.

With legislation requiring the disclosure of gender pay gaps and a push by many companies to accelerate their efforts, the CIPD recently engaged our knowledge into a practice network on the theme of gender diversity. Our event hosted by Edinburgh Napier University posed the question ‘Glass Ceiling: Cracked but Still Intact’ Professor Wendy Loretto of Edinburgh University explained that despite efforts to improve the situation gender diversity is a moving target. Evidence is now showing that women are being disadvantaged more by ageing than their male colleagues. The research cited by Professor Loretto shows that age and gender are "additive" they reinforce each other. Women's caring burden is an explanation. Much more needs to be done. Gender is the apex of discrimination. When we tackle it we will also tackle other forms of discrimination which lock out talent and opportunity and short change us all.

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