The gender pay gap for female executives is extensive across Western Europe, according to research from Mercer.

In some countries base salary for women is 22 per cent lower than their male peers. This figure increases further when other elements such as bonuses are included.

In the UK the average executive wage for men is £103,230. For women it is £93,434, around £10,000 less. The figures are made up of the cash elements of pay.

Germany has the worst reward disparity in Western Europe, closely followed by Austria at 20 per cent. Among the fairest countries were Norway, Switzerland and Belgium, who had no more than an eight per cent difference.

Sophie Black, Principal in Mercer’s Executive Remuneration Team, said that childcare responsibilities have an impact, particularly when part-time work is necessary.

“A woman may be paid less than her male peers because the five years she spent off the corporate ladder represents, in the eyes of her employer, five years less experience,” she commented.

A further reason for the disparity is “occupational segregation”. Often women work within function roles such as HR and marketing, while men take up positions in core activities including sales and operations. As a result women’s role in the corporate hierarchy may show them underperforming compared with their male counterparts. This is because their positions are historically lower paid.

Black concluded: “Given the emphasis that the European Union and national governments seem to be giving gender equality and the value that women bring to the workforce, it would be prudent for companies to ensure that they are doing everything possible to create a diverse workforce.”