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New British offender in gender pay gap

Here at Holborn we keep a keen eye on women’s finances, reports Holborn Finance Writer Vicky Bizzell, and the stubborn issue of the gender pay gap is one that just keeps making headlines.

Following hot on the heels of International Women’s Day and the World Economic Forum report that the gender equality gap is widening, HSBC has announced that men are paid on average two and a half times more per hour than women in its organisation. The report, from Britain’s largest bank, also reveals that three quarters of its senior staff are male, while women occupy more than two thirds of junior roles. In response, HSBC has said that it had increased the number of senior posts held by women to nearly 27% in 2017 compared to 22% five years ago.  They added: “We recognise that that there is more work to do to address our gender balance at senior levels.”  

Why is the gender pay gap in the news?

The cultural, political, and economic climate is awash with the topic of the gender pay gap.  In a new initiative by the UK government all private and public sector businesses and charities with more than 250 employees must submit their gender pay report by April. Over 9000 companies, employing in excess of 15 million people, will be expected to submit a report.  The scheme has been designed to reveal the disparity between men and women occupying the top-paying jobs, and to encourage an “awakening” to economic equality.   Other major companies such as Easyjet and Virgin Money have also revealed a gap of more than 30% in the mean hourly pay rates for men and women.  

Why is there a gender pay gap?

Not such an easy question to answer! We can talk about the prevalence of women in part-time jobs, of caring roles and career breaks, but in reality the gender pay gap is a persistent issue that is best understood from an historical perspective. Emma Griffin, professor of Modern British History at the University of East Anglia, looks at the economic value of housework, a traditionally female task that is both unpaid and time consuming.  She writes, “all homes – and particularly those with children – require some domestic labour. We can pay for childminders and cleaners to do this labour; or we can do it ourselves for free. But it does need to be done. For centuries, high male wages and lower female wages have formed a central plank in ensuring that every household has some female labour available for cooking, childcare and cleaning. Today’s gender pay gap plays an important role in maintaining the status quo.” Or is simply that the workplace rewards masculine traits higher than female traits? And – more positively – maybe some time in the future the gender pay gap will swing the other way, because jobs require more feminine traits? Who knows?  

A global problem

The World Economic Forum report published in 2017 has revealed that women around the globe may have to wait more than two centuries to gain equality in the workplace.   For the first time since the report has been conducted, the gender gap widened. The research ranks 144 countries according to the gap between the genders, based on access to health, education, economics and politics.  

What is the world’s most gender equal country?

Fancy living amidst volcanoes and geysers? Well, if you want to live in the world’s most gender equal country, Iceland has held the top spot for nine consecutive years.  The 2017 report revealed that Iceland has now closed more than 87% of its overall gender gap, storming ahead of Nordic rivals Norway and Finland. Rwanda and Nicaragua are also in the top ten, ranked 4th and 6th respectively, while the UK is ranked 15th and the USA finds itself behind Colombia at 49th. At Holborn, we understand that women can have different pressures upon their finances, as well as varying access to economic resources at different times in their lives.      

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