Anna Ritchie Allan: Scottish women still earn less than men

Nicola Sturgeon announced a 50-50 gender split for her Cabinet last year, but women on average still lag behind men in salary terms.
Nicola Sturgeon announced a 50-50 gender split for her Cabinet last year, but women on average still lag behind men in salary terms.
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WE may have a female First Minister, but a gender pay gap still exists in Scotland. Anna Ritchie Allan looks at the numbers behind the headlines.

In some ways, the gender pay gap is very simple. On average, women are paid less an hour than male counterparts.

Gender stereotyping begins at birth

Anna Ritchie Allan

In Scotland that gap is 12 per cent for full-time workers, and 32 per cent for part-time workers. Look behind the headline figures though and there’s a more complex picture. In addition to pay discrimination - which is usually unintentional - a number of other factors contribute to women’s unequal position in the labour market.

Women still do the bulk of unpaid caring, and a lack of flexible working makes it difficult for them to balance work with these family and caring responsibilities. After having children many women end up working below their skill level in the only part-time jobs that are available, which tend to be in undervalued, low-paid occupations like admin, cleaning and retail. In total 76 per cent of part-time workers are women. Cutting back their hours in this way has a long-term scarring effect on women’s incomes across their lifetimes, which affects not just pay, but also promotion prospects.

One of the biggest challenges is the different type of work that men and women tend to do. We still have quite rigid ideas about male and female capabilities and preferences and these stereotypes contribute to women being clustered in lower grade jobs in sectors with the poorest pay.

Men comprise 79 per cent of energy sector workers and 86 per cent of construction sector workers, while women make up two-thirds of public sector workers. Skilled trades are dominated by men (90 per cent), while 82 per cent of care jobs are done by women.

Gender stereotyping begins at birth.

All-pervasive messaging about girls’ and boys’ abilities and interests means that by the time young people are making decisions about subject choice, ideas about gender and work are very fixed. This contributes to the dearth of young women studying non-traditional subjects such as maths and physics. Of those who do, even fewer go on to work in well paid, non-traditional jobs such as engineering.

Many of the women that do make it into the labour market later leave. Sometimes that’s because they find out they’re being paid less than their male colleagues - female graduates earn up to 28 per cent less than their male counterparts even if they studied the same degree subject. In other cases, they’ve been continually passed over for promotion, they’re not able to work flexibly once having children or they’ve felt the chill of a male-oriented workplace culture.

This is what the numbers tell us about the way workplace culture affects women and men differently.

-Two in five young women aged 17 to 21 feel under pressure to stay slim in order to have a better chance at job interviews.

-One-third of managers would rather hire a man in his 20s or 30s rather than a woman of the same age.

-One in nine mothers were dismissed, made compulsorily redundant or treated so unfavourably they felt compelled to leave their jobs, equivalent to 54,000 women in the UK leaving their job every year because of maternity and pregnancy discrimination.

Equalising women’s employment and productivity to the same levels as men’s could add £600bn to the UK economy. For individual employers, the business case is clear: companies that promote gender equality are able to recruit from a wider pool of talent, enjoy a reduction in turnover and training costs, and experience increased productivity through improved employee motivation.

Anna Ritchie Allan is Project Manager at Close the Gap. The project works in Scotland on women’s participation in the Labour market.