The gender pay gap is oft discussed and rightly criticised as a relic of the past. We have Sheryl Sandberg urging us to Lean In, Warren Buffet pithily noting that only competing fairly against half the world’s population (at most!) was key to his success, and a host of initiatives encouraging women to demand more and discouraging discrimination; yet disparity lingers.

So we used the data of 1200 anonymous Payspective respondents to dig into the issue of gender and pay in the UK. (Payspective is a real-time compensation and happiness comparison tool for Russell Group graduates.)

Know your enemy

“Fortune does favour the bold and you’ll never know what you’re capable of if you don’t try.”
― Sheryl SandbergLean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead

What we found was truly horrifying. Women earn considerably less than men at comparable experience levels. Payspective data showed a gender pay gap of 27%, and yet women were just as happy with their compensation. Simply put, men expect more, are prepared to ask for what they think they are worth and see their pay packets swell as a consequence. It’s also likely that men are promoted faster due to their confidence in asserting their own worth. This contributes to the 27% compensation gap. That’s not to say that men earning promotions don’t deserve the step up (though I’m sure we can all think of one or two if we put our minds to it). Rather, their bullish behaviour sees them recognised and rewarded disproportionately early.

The pay gap is strongly linked to the size of bonuses. Payspective data shows that men earn considerably larger bonuses (just under twice the size of the average female bonus), suggesting that they can influence the size of discretionary allowances while hands are more tied on fixed salary structures. Again, this reinforces the age-old adage: ‘if you don’t ask, you don’t get’. Men certainly seem more adept at asking!

We can see that this disparity is not from men simply outperforming women (as you’d hopefully have guessed!) by examining the value of perks (pension, car allowance, etc.). Women receive a collection of perks worth, on average, 47% less than the men they graduated from university with. Perks are something very much negotiated rather than earnt, and the disparity demonstrates that.

Interestingly, the think tank the ‘Higher Education Policy Institute’ in their report ‘Boys to Men: The Underachievement of Young Men in Higher Education and How to Start Tackling It’ note that 73% of women achieve a 2.1 at university. The figure is only 69% for their male counterparts. In other words, men are outperformed by women at university; something that makes it even more incredible that men can monetize greater confidence, if not diligence. In terms of academic performance, the gender pay gap should not exist.

 We can see that this disparity is not from men simply outperforming women. Women receive a collection of perks worth, on average, 47% less than the men they graduated from university with.

Happiness Gap

Looking at things differently, the compensation chasm runs counter to a happiness gap. Women report themselves to be 5% happier with their work, despite their significantly lower pay, when compared to the average man.

This may be linked to that fact that women reported that they worked 7% fewer hours than men on average. One imagines this is heavily conditioned by a heavier utilisation of parental leave by young mothers. At the same time, many young fathers consolidate their position as the primary breadwinner. Part of this is natural: strong bonds are formed between a lot of mothers and their children during pregnancy. It is completely understandable for this to influence decision-making. It is, however, surprising that the difference in work-life balance, underlying the gender pay gap, persists quite as much as it does, given the coming of shared parental leave. Then again, this wouldn’t be the first time social norms lagged behind law making.

Don’t settle, come armed with the truth

“The upside of painful knowledge is so much greater than the downside of blissful ignorance.”
― Sheryl SandbergLean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead

As you come to the end of anything you write you reach the inevitable ‘so what’ moment. It’s all very well to pick out some clever trends but ultimately you are of much greater use if you can suggest solutions.

If being assertive doesn’t come naturally to you, the simplest solution is to know your worth. Honest, factual conversations are harder to avoid.

German companies will be forced to be more transparent about how much they pay male and female employees, under new legislation approved Wednesday 11th of January 2017, in a bid to tackle the gender pay gap. Under the new regulations, workers in companies with more than 200 employees will have the right to know what men and women in equal positions are earning.

This is a great step. Payspective (shameless self-promotion I know, I hope you’ll forgive me!) goes one further. It show you how you sit against your university peers, those you started work with and those in your industry with comparable levels of experience. It also allows you to explore how your career trajectory might see you paid in the future, using thousands of data points from other respondents. And it enables you to see how your compensation would change if you swapped industry as well.

Our hope is that people can use this information to see their true worth and arm themselves for difficult conversations. We believe that this will aid women in demanding equality and, perhaps, in helping men to understand that compensation isn’t all they should be demanding. This, in the end, is what is needed to close the gender pay gap.

“Social gains are never handed out. They must be seized.”
― Sheryl SandbergLean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead

by Adam

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