In a webinar with Bright Horizons, HRreview explored gender equality at work, and how the gender pay gap can be closed. This article breaks down the main points to take away.

The median man at a UK business was paid 9.8 percent more than the median woman last year, compared with 10 percent in 2020, according to research by Bright Horizons.

Results also show that 78 percent of employers paid their male employees more than their female employees compared to the 13 percent who paid women more.

Only 8 percent reported having no pay gap.

It was also found that there is a difference between women who are and are not a parent. For those who are, the pay gap is significantly higher.


What impact has Covid-19 had on the gender pay gap?

Work has changed significantly over the last two years. Alongside Covid-19, the Great Resignation has seen greater geographical diversity, with many people, expecting more from work now then they did before.

There is a big percentage of people who answered yes to having a rethink to the purpose of their lives, according to a recent report by Bright Horizons. Family has become a higher priority, and a lot of people have had a serious inward look. Employers who are intent on keeping and attracting talented people should recognise that it is not about work being everything but about work supporting life, says Head of Thought Leadership, Bright Horizons, Jennifer Liston-Smith.


Childcare and the gender pay gap

Three-quarters consider childcare solutions before a new job, according to Bright Horizons.

There is a reported 7 percent increase in childcare concern for men in 2022 vs 2021, according to the Bright Horizons 2022 Modern Families Index.

Eldercare concerns are also high, standing at 78 percent for men and 67 percent for women. Also, eldercare concerns are held by 93 percent of 19-34 year-olds.

Ms Liston-Smith suggests that providing back up care helps enormously. Both carers and parents have been highly visible during the pandemic. This has shown that both work and family can work together to support people’s caring duties.

Worryingly, over half of parents are concerned about educational catch-up and the mental health of their children post-lockdown. It is a gender-inclusive concern, with 62 percent of men and 47 percent of women worried.

Enabling back-up care provision to parent employees which can also be concerned into virtual tutoring is an effective way of support.

Family life often collides with career transition moments. Also, it is often the case that there is one primary and one secondary carer, often setting women on a less ambitious career pathway. This individual may feel side-lined, and come back to work with less confidence. Also, part-time tends to be less valued, and less favourably praised. So, there needs to be a systematic approach as well as good policies and good caring programs in place.

For example, throughout the ongoing parent journey, back-up childcare can help with emergencies which may disrupt work. The cost of childcare is increasing, so offering community nurseries will help enormously. In this sense, for families the cost of childcare can be helped by their employer. Partnerships with community nurseries could provide substantial employee benefits.


Pay transparency

Many women become disadvantaged in the salary negotiation stage of the recruitment process. If an employer does not cite the salary on the job listing, the negotiations rely heavily on what the candidate suggests. Their expectations may be based off their previous salary band. This, in turn, may perpetuate and continue the gender pay gap.

Certain legislation may have a positive impact over salary negotiations. In the US market, those states which have enacted pay transparency laws have seen a pay increase for women. For example, in Colorado, employers are required to post pay on the job listing.

Increasing pay transparency will take away pay negotiations where women tend to do less well. Pay transparency laws could have a large impact.

However, it is important to note that legislation alone cannot be the ‘fix’ for the gender pay gap. Legislation would have to pick up quite a number of issues which are embedded within society. This is hard to change through legislation alone.


Women in underrepresented sectors

Employers need to be willing to play an active role in increasing the number of women into underrepresented sectors, such as engineering.

It is damaging to take the view that it is a wider societal issue. Instead, employers can play a vital role in this transition; if employers adhere to inclusion policies, it will trickle down into the culture.

However, companies need to not only improve the balance of genders within their organisations, but also need to address their gender pay gap.

In traditionally male dominated industries, the lack of women employees has traditionally been put down to a lack of applications. However, with 38 percent looking to change jobs in the next year, there is plenty of talent out there.

The breakdown of the gender pay gap in engineering has had an impact, now leaving employers heavily involved with the STEM pipeline, and encouraging more female graduates into their organisation.

Having a well-established gender pay gap action plan in place, as well as continuing to monitor the statistics, is crucial; closing the gender pay gap is not happening nearly as quickly as it needs to. Having plans at the top levels of organisations, as well as having individual plans at a team level are important in the tackling of the gap.

To view the webinar with Bright Horizons, please click here.





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.