6 ways to combat the gender pay gap in the workplace

LONDON — Millennial women, you might be encouraged by news this week that the gender pay gap in the UK is lower than ever before for your age group. But that narrowing of the gap is short lived. It deteriorates as women reach age 30.

New research published on Wednesday suggests that the gap for women in their twenties is as small as 5 percent; half what it was for women of the previous generation. The research suggests that once women enter their 30s, the pay gap rises dramatically to 9 percent — just one percent less than it was for Generation X women (born between 1966 and 1980). 

The report says that this is due to the fact that “the old challenges associated with having children” still persist. This sentiment has been echoed by the Fawcett Society which says that women currently in their 20s are likely to experience the effects of pay inequality once they become parents.

So, if millennials are doomed to the pay gap as they grow older, is there anything we can do about it? Mashable spoke to experts to find out practical ways the pay gap can be combatted in the workplace by both employers and employees. 

1. Make jobs more flexible

According to Close The Gap, a lack of flexible jobs is “a key cause” of the lower levels of women in senior positions, and therefore the gender pay gap. This lack of flexible jobs can mean that part-time work or low-paid jobs are the only options available to working mothers. 

Working flexibly can be achieved in a variety of different ways, from job sharing, working from home to flexitime and part-time work. 

Maria Miller, MP and chair of women and equalities select committee, told Mashable that “many working mothers take low-paid jobs below their skill levels” due to employers’ persistent beliefs that a 9-to-5 office-based working environment is the only show in town. 

“We think of part-time work as the only way to get flexibility, but we’ve learnt through the evidence we’ve gathered that it can actually trap women in low paid roles with no progression,” said Miller.

A 2016 report by the women and equalities select committee recommended all jobs be made flexible “by default from the outset” unless there is a strong business case for them not to be. 

The report recommends that employers think about jobs and the way they are structured, particularly in the early stages of jobs being created or advertised.

2. Change the language in job ads 

Six out of 10 women consider their childcare responsibilities before applying for a promotion or a new job, according to research by Working Families. But it’s often not clear from a job advert whether the company in question would allow flexible working. 

Family Friendly Working Scotland developed a strap line and logo for employers which can be used to highlight a company’s commitment to flexible working in job advertisements. 

Image: working families

Similarly, the UK job site Timewise launched the Hire Me My Way campaign urging large and small employers to change their recruitment practices to being open to discuss flexible working options at the point of hire, and to say so in their job adverts. Employers should keep an open mind to the possibility of flexible working when hiring. 

3. Ask the question 

Timewise also recommends that prospective employees call HR departments before they apply and ask about what flexibility — if any — is possible. Although when it comes to the interview process, they recommend highlighting your skills and suitability before you mention flexibility.

“It is worth enquiring as to whether they already have people working flexibly in that given role type and/or team. This is usually the major tell-tale sign if flexibility will even be a possibility,” a spokesperson for Timewise told Mashable

If you want to change your current position to be flexible, Timewise recommends demonstrating you can make it work “without apologising for it”. If you consistently meet your targets and goals, make your employer aware and make it known that this will continue. 

4. Conduct or request equal pay reviews

Image: PA Wire/PA Images

The Equality Act 2010 entitles women to the same pay as men doing equal work in the same employment. This means that employers in the UK are responsible for providing equal pay and ensuring that pay systems are transparent.

Equal pay reviews, also known as equal pay audits, are a way for employers to keep track of any gender pay gaps specific to their own business. These reviews involve comparing the pay of men and women doing the same work, identifying any pay gaps, and eliminating gaps that cannot be explained on grounds other than gender.

If you’re an employer, conducting regular pay reviews can help you keep on top of any discrepancies. The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) provides detailed equal pay review (audit) toolkit for employers.

5. Address gender representation 

Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

According to the Young Women’s Trust (YWT) , better-paid, male-dominated industries need to take positive action to increase women’s participation. 

YWT Chief Executive Carole Easton told Mashable the pay gap for young women apprentices is “even bigger” than the average figure. “Male apprentices earn 21 per cent more, leaving women £2,000 ($2,484) a year worse off. As a result, young women are more likely to face significant financial pressures,” Easton told Mashable

6. Explicitly welcome female applicants 

Easton believes that employers need to do more to make young women feel more welcome in traditionally male-dominated sectors like construction and engineering. 

“This means taking positive action to increase women’s participation. Small changes like adapting the language in job adverts to appeal to young women, explicitly welcoming women applicants and removing formal academic entry requirements for apprenticeships can make a big difference,” Easton continued.