Between the lines: Gender pay gap a myth beyond sell-by-date

We're told repeatedly about the UK's endemic pay gap between the sexes '“ a depressing gulf that divides our men and womenfolk and is threatening to widen to Grand Canyon-like proportions with every passing year.
Sarah McParland, group managing director of Lusona recruitment consultancySarah McParland, group managing director of Lusona recruitment consultancy
Sarah McParland, group managing director of Lusona recruitment consultancy

So it proved again when the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHMRC) recently insisted that female graduates are too often earning £8,000 less than their male counterparts. The commission concluded that female graduates start on salaries between £15,000 and just under £24,000, while their male counterparts are more likely to be paid more than £24,000.

According to this purported research, the biggest gap was among lawyers, with women generally taking home some £20,000 – around £8,000 less than men.

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I beg to differ. Such claims do not correlate with my experience in a recruitment career spanning almost 20 years. Furthermore, my company specialises in supporting the legal profession and deals on a daily basis with paralegals and qualified solicitors at every stage of post-qualifying experience, so when I am told that the biggest gap lies between lawyers, I believe it is nonsense.

There is no “gap”, no “great divide” – just women working on an equal footing and, in many instances, performing at a level way above their male peers.

Where do so-called researchers get these figures from? I have my doubts. It’s certainly no coincidence that their findings are often headline-grabbing and startling – particularly so for those whose experiences they claim to reflect. So many variables – both tangible and intangible – combine to determine what remuneration someone is willing to work for and conversely, what an employer is willing to pay.

Flexiblity can play a part as some seek out a better work-life balance. Likewise, job satisfaction can be key for many who are passionate about what they do, and therefore place that sense of self-worth before salary. It seems to me that only the public sector got into difficulty with gender-influenced pay grades.

My advice is to disregard the hackneyed, dubiously sourced salary surveys. Ignore what your friends claim to be earning. It should also be kept in mind that paying high salaries does not guarantee businesses that they will have a fully engaged workforce, or that high-earning employees will be high performers.

There is much more to your dream job than a good wage, and indeed, to life. The trouble with salary surveys is they tend often to make wrong assumptions.

The pay gap is a myth – and the sooner we realise it, the sooner we can get on with nurturing thriving workplaces driven by talented, hard-working individuals, regardless of gender.

• Sarah McParland is group managing director of Lusona recruitment consultancy