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Gender pay gaps: how to achieve pay equality in our working lifetime

Written by Dr Emma Waltham | Parental Returners Expert

According to PwC’s Women in Work 2023, the gender pay gap across the OECD rose to 13.8% in 2022. This is only three percent lower than it was a decade ago.

Larice Stielow, Senior Economist, PwC UK, commented:

“An 18 year old woman entering the workforce today will not see pay equality in her working lifetime. At the rate the gender pay gap is closing, it will take more than 50 years to reach gender pay parity... We must design and develop policy solutions that actively address the underlying causes of the inequality that exist today.”

The motherhood penalty

The motherhood penalty – the loss in lifetime earnings experienced by women raising children – is now the most significant driver of the gender pay gap. In 2021, the OECD found the motherhood penalty accounts for 60% of the gender pay gap across 25 European countries.

In addition, there is also a glass ceiling for women, as we can see in slow growth in numbers of women reaching senior posts. Today only 5% of C-Suite roles are held by women.

What does this mean for business?

There is no doubt that gender diversity – particularly at senior levels – is good for business. Organisations with greater gender diversity are 1.4 times more likely to have sustained, profitable growth, according to research from PwC.

Read about how our clients are working with us to improve gender balance and retain their returning mums.

Businesses – particularly in STEM – have invested heavily in attracting more women. However, women are still finding their careers disrupted and opportunities limited due to maternity. If their company culture and working environment aren’t the right fit, working mums vote with their feet. According to Deloitte’s Women at Work, more than half of women plan to leave their employer in the next two years.

So, what can companies do?

If we really want to tackle the gender pay gap, we need to create inclusive workplaces where women – including those with children – can continue their career pathways to senior levels.

Thinking about your organisation, ask yourself:

  • Are your line managers empathetic, open and approachable?

  • Do returning parents know their options? Are flexible working policies readily available and easy to understand?

  • Are policies for working parents applied fairly, consistently and transparently

  • Does your organisation foster a sense of inclusion and allyship?

  • Are returning parents the victims of bias, even if it’s unconscious or well-meaning? Is there an assumption that working mums are less committed to their careers?

Get in touch and let’s talk about how to make your workplace more inclusive and family-friendly.

Start the conversation: Parental Allyship Training

Our Parental Allyship Training sessions are incredibly popular right now, and are a great way to start conversations within your organisation.

In an open and non-judgemental way, our live webinars explore the barriers to inclusion and progression, and ensure that everyone leaves with an action plan to create a more transparent, fair and inclusive working environment where returning parents will want to stay, and find it easy to thrive.

Let’s start a conversation about how parental allyship training could be the first step to achieving gender parity in your organisation.


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