Friday, October 19News For London

‘It’s crap’: Londoners speak up as pay gap widens for young women

London now has the worst gender pay gap in the UK, with the disparity widening for young women, according to analysis from the Office for National Statistics.

Londoners cite varying reasons and solutions to the gender pay gap issue. Photos by Jane Bracher, courtesy of Rose Scanlon-James

The capital had the narrowest gap in 1997 as women with full-time jobs earned 15.1 per cent less than men, but the needle barely moved two decades on as the gap is still at 14.6 percent in 2017. The trend for young women is particularly worrisome as it significantly rose from 1.1 per cent in 2011 to 5.5 per cent a mere six years later.

Sam Smethers, chief executive of gender equality and women’s rights charity Fawcett Society, said: “The pay gap is widest for older women as it grows over our working lives but we are now seeing a widening of the pay gap for younger women too, which suggests we are going backwards and that is extremely worrying.”

The data have come as a surprise for some, considering that London is a cosmopolitan often included in capital-of-the-world discussions. But the root causes of the issue are far more complicated and deeply ingrained in society.

Rose Scanlon-James, community manager for the non-profit SheSays UK, told Westminster World: “My opinion on gender pay gap is obviously that it’s crap. It’s terrible. One thing we’ve found is that because men are more confident with salary negotiations at any point in their career, very often that’s why the gender pay gap actually happens. Especially when they get a new job offer, women will usually take the base salary they are offered in that job offer, whereas men will negotiate a lot higher.”

SheSays, which specifically helps educate and advance women in the creative industries, conducts salary negotiation workshops to help address this issue.

London mayor Sadiq Khan made a pledge to ‘work hard to close the gender pay gap’ on Equal Pay Day last month, when women effectively work for free because of the pay disparity.

More women and men from various parts of London weighed in on the gender pay gap issue and how it might be addressed. Click on the location pins on the map of the capital below to read about what they had to say.

Northern Ireland is the only region in the UK where women working full-time earn more than their male counterparts, while Wales has the smallest gender pay gap favouring men. 

Many point to the fact that women may get pregnant and go on maternity leaves as a major factor that plays into the pay gap.

I think generally it happens when a woman becomes pregnant and can’t get back into work in a way that she used to or finds it harder to work because she has child responsibilities,” said Camilla James, 26, a marketing and communications manager from Brockley.

Even men, who are seen as key voices to gender equality in campaigns such as He For She, recognise that women being mothers plays a role, albeit they condemn the pay gap.

Obviously I think it’s wrong. You hear stories about what happens when women go on maternity leaves say for a year, and what happens when they come back, whether it’s still easy for them to come back or if they’re treated as inferior because they got pregnant,” said Matt Fazal, 25, a regional manager working in the charity sector.

The government has already required companies with 250 or more employees to publish by April 2018 their salary figures in an effort to close the gap.

(Sub-editing: Martin Steers)