For years – centuries even – the roles of men and women were clearly defined. Men went out to work and, by and large, women stayed at home or busied themselves with the narrow range of jobs that was deemed acceptable for women to do. Since then, of course, we have seen real progress in women’s economic empowerment, but there is still more to do.
One of the biggest inequalities still facing women is pay. According to a report published by the Chartered Management Institute earlier this month, women executives can earn £423,000 less than a man in her career.
Encouragingly, figures releases today by the Office for National Statistics reveal the gender pay gap for all employees in 2012 has reduced by 0.5 percentage points from 2011, but still stands at an extraordinary 19.7%. The gender pay gap for full-time employees is 9.6%. It just seems absurd that women are still losing out on pay.
We know that more needs to be done to tackle the pay gap, and we are committed to doing so.
Women are absolutely vital to this country’s growth and we’re missing a trick if we don’t make the most of everything they have to offer. So far we’ve made good progress to end pay discrimination. We have implemented measures in the Equality Act to make pay secrecy clauses unlawful and we’re taking through legislation which would give Tribunals the power to order employers to conduct a pay audit, where they have been found to discriminate over pay.
I am delighted to say that we have already seen more than 50 companies – from Deloitte to Marks and Spencer – sign up to our Think, Act, Report initiative, which encourages companies to report on gender equality in the workplace, including reporting on pay and other workplace issues. That means over a million people are now employed by companies who have made a public commitment to gender equality.
But for all this, pay inequality remains a stubborn obstacle to real fairness in the workplace. We will continue to work with businesses to ensure that we do all we can to help them make the most of women’s talents, and unlock their full potential.