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Baroness Nye: The gender pay gap is a real reminder that women are still losing out on better career prospects & greater spending power

Baroness Nye

Baroness Nye

3 min read

Labour peer Baroness Nye writes ahead of her Parliamentary Question on 'Addressing the gender pay gap' in light of International Women's Day 2019 this week on 8th March. 

The 2019 International Women’s Day theme is #Balance for Better. A gender balanced world is crucial for economies and communities around the world to thrive and will only happen if we take action to stop the gender pay gap.

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the Young Women’s Trust (YWT) Awards which were partnered by Elle magazine. As a trustee, I know first hand the amazing work YWT does to support young women build their confidence, broaden their expectations and find work. Tara, a 24 year old who overcame homelessness to land a job in Parliament was amongst the five truly inspirational winners recognised who show that it is possible to break down the barriers to realise their potential.

Those young women will in the course of their life experience the gender pay gap as soon as they enter the workplace – well before caring responsibilities kick in – and will continue into retirement with smaller pension pots.

With the deadline for the latest annual round of gender pay gap reporting fast approaching, new research commissioned by the Young Women’s Trust for this year’s International Women’s Day has found that only a third of bosses say that their organisation has taken proactive steps to close their gender pay gap. This and the Guardian report that companies have given totally inaccurate data in the past but faced no sanction surely makes the case for making action plans part of the compulsory reporting process.

One other way to break the cycle of lower pay for women would be for employers to include salary and entitlement details such as parental leave in all job adverts. This would create greater transparency about the role instead of the onus being on job applicants to ask.

Employers should also avoid asking applicants about their current salary as it perpetuates existing gender pay gaps. It especially disadvantages anyone who has taken time out of paid employment to care for children or other family members. Basing salaries on previous pay can also penalise anyone moving to a different region that has higher salaries and higher living costs. Some US cities and states, including New York and California, have already outlawed the practice but it remains here in the UK to the detriment of women. I believe that this is something the Government should give serious consideration to.

Much more needs to be done to make flexible working routinely available including in middle and senior level jobs so that both women and men can better juggle work duties with responsibilities outside of the workplace. Despite technology providing greater opportunities, flexible working remains out of reach of many. Little wonder that many women continue to drop out of the job market or are driven into self-employment not through choice but as the only way to balance caring responsibilities which continue to fall disproportionately on women.

Just over a century after some women first got the vote in the United Kingdom, the gender pay gap is a real reminder that women are still losing out on better career prospects and greater spending power. Without concerted action from Government and employers, at the current rate of progress young women - like the five amazing women who received the Young Women’s Trust Awards last week – will be retired well before the gender pay gap is a thing of the past.

Baroness Nye is a Labour peer 

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