Fascinating research from the Office of National Statistics has demonstrated just how difficult the headline gender pay gap is to analyse. Apparently only a third of the discrepancy in pay can be attributed to variables such as age, type of work and industry sector. Building complexity in the modelling by adding information about family situation, career breaks and educational background may help, but the essential problem appears to be that the gender pay gap reporting regime, while laudable in many respects, is far from an ideal tool to examine gender disparity at work.
In many organisations, the hourly wage and bonus paid to genuinely comparable men and women will be virtually identical - one would certainly hope so! Much more problematic is, as the FT points out, the fact that so many lower paid roles are predominantly taken by women, while the upper echelons are dominated by men.
Equal pay and the abolition of the glass ceiling have been deserved targets for campaigners for many years. Comparative hourly wage and bonus data appears to be of limited use in addressing equality of pay, but could it be that the quartile distribution data that is also required by the gender pay gap reporting regime becomes the most effective way to tackle barriers to the progression of talented women?
Women are more likely, for example, to work in care and administrative roles, while men are more likely to be chief executives, managers and machine operatives. The types of jobs that women do tend to be lower-paid than the types of jobs that men do. These occupational differences account for almost a quarter of the gap between men and women’s average hourly pay.