As the Class of 2024 graduates and enters the job market, they are immediately confronted with a persistent issue: the gender pay gap.

According to an analysis by Startups.co.uk, the disparity in earnings between male and female employees begins as early as age 22 and continues to widen with age.

The data, sourced from government statistics, reveals that young employees in the UK aged 22-29 experience an average gender pay gap of 3.0 percent.

This gap suggests that female graduates can expect to earn less than their male counterparts from the outset of their careers.

The Growing Divide

The gender pay gap does not remain static; it increases as employees age, peaking at an average of 14.2 percent for those aged 60-69. This widening gap is largely attributed to the “motherhood penalty,” where working mothers often reduce their hours or shift to part-time work to manage childcare responsibilities.

For new graduates, who typically do not have children, the initial pay gap may be driven by lower salary expectations among women and the tendency for women to enter lower-paid industries. These factors contribute to a long-term earnings disparity that affects women throughout their careers.

A Long Road Ahead

Closing the gender pay gap remains a distant goal. According to the Financial Times, if the current rate of decrease continues, it will take 29 years to achieve pay equality. This means that even future generations of women will likely face the same challenges as today’s female graduates.

Helena Young, Lead Writer at Startups.co.uk, emphasised the urgency of addressing this issue: “Our analysis of the ONS data suggests that this summer, as thousands of excited university leavers begin applying to graduate roles, many will earn less in their career simply because of their gender. It’s a shocking reflection on today’s workplace that even a newborn baby can expect to lose out on pay to a future male colleague.”

Call to Action

Young urged both the government and businesses to take more decisive action to close the gender pay gap. “Companies must work harder to close the gender pay gap in their workforce. While the causes are nuanced, the result is clear. A concerted effort by government and UK businesses is needed to address the external and psychological factors that lead to women employees being viewed as literally worth less than men,” she said.

Statistical Breakdown

The Office for National Statistics provided a detailed breakdown of the gender pay gap by age range, illustrating the persistent and increasing nature of the disparity:

  • 18-21 years old: -0.2%
  • 22-29 years old: 3.0%
  • 30-39 years old: 4.7%
  • 40-49 years old: 10.3%
  • 50-59 years old: 11.2%
  • 60-69 years old: 14.2%

 

 

 

 

Avatar

Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.