Workplace pay statistics make disheartening reading

The campaign theme for today's International Women's Day is Pledge For Parity, calling for 'urgent' action to eliminate the gap between genders in the workplace.

Business reporter Emma Newlands. Picture: Jane Barlow
Business reporter Emma Newlands. Picture: Jane Barlow

And urgency is certainly necessary when statistics on the subject can make for highly disheartening reading. The World Economic Forum, for example, found in a study that the time it will take to achieve global workforce gender parity is not just a staggering 117 years, but has grown from 80 years in 12 months.

By this measure, parity is unattainable by some distance for the working lifespan of girls born today, and will remain out of reach for the following generation.

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However, while the study also found that leadership parity was just 28 per cent, it was a more cheering 75 per cent for skilled roles.

What’s more, while the average global salary for a woman was $11,000 last year, equal to the male figure in 2006, the disparity seems to be reducing.

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Debate continues about the best way to close the gap altogether, with board quotas a regular focus. The Davies review on the issue, published last year, grabbed headlines for reporting that women’s representation on the FTSE 100 more than doubled to 26 per cent in less than five years. Such success is undeniably cause for celebration, but concerns remain that simply bowing to external pressures is not enough to address the issue.

Supporting this, a study from the University of Cambridge Judge Business School and the 30% Club, which aims for FTSE 100 boards to comprise at least 30 per cent women, found that quotas make no real difference to female representation in top executive roles.

They found that “soft legislation” like director term limits and gender diversity requirements in corporate governance codes had a broader effect, and the London School of Economics came to a similar conclusion, stating in a separate report: “Gender-equitable policies need to be practised throughout an organisation to effect change, and support for senior women is necessary to prevent quotas from becoming a revolving door for women.”

The across-the-board approach of Pledge For Parity, therefore, helps ensure gender parity can become a reality for current and future generations, rather than something as distant from reality as a fairytale.