The pay gap

It is now almost 50 years since the Equal Pay Act came into force, but there is still a massive inequality between men’s and women’s pay.

There is a 14%* gap between men’s and women’s average hourly rates, and a 30% gap when you compare women’s part-time average hourly rate to men’s full-time hourly rate.

These headline figures represent a lifetime of inquality for womenwhich contributes to women's higher levels of poverty, children's poverty and women’s pensioner poverty. It also impacts on household earnings, and on men’s earnings when they work in sectors or occupations with high levels of female workers.

There are three main causes of the gender pay gap.

Occupational segregation

Stereotyping about women’s capabilities and skills results in women being clustered into predominantly female occupations that are associated with low pay. These include cleaning, catering, admin, care, and retail. There are also barriers, sometimes called ‘the glass ceiling’, which make women less likely to be found in management and senior positions.

Lack of flexible working

Women also experience discrimination and disadvantage because they are more likely to have caring responsibilities for children, sick relatives, disabled people, or older people. One fifth of women lost their job, or lose out on pay or promotion, simply for being pregnant.

A lack of flexible working in many workplaces means that women are required to look for part-time work in order to balance their many responsibilities. As most part-time work is in low-paid, stereotypically female occupations, this means that women’s pay is likely to go down. Part-time working also has a long-term scarring effect on women’s wages, even if they return to full-time work.

Discrimination in pay and grading systems

There is also widespread discrimination in pay systems, with many women being paid less for work that is the same or similar, or of the same value as male colleagues’ work. This is usually not intentional and there can be many factors within pay systems that lead to inequalities. For example, individuals being appointed to different points on the pay scale; different job and grade titles for virtually the same jobs; male jobs having disproportionate access to bonus earnings; women having less access to high-paid shift and overtime work; performance-related pay being unfairly awarded; women not receiving the same access to training; sex bias in analytical job evaluation schemes grading women’s jobs lower.

Women's experiences vary

While there are commonalities in women's experiences of employment, women are not a homogenous group. Disabled women, black and minority ethnic women, Muslim women, lesbian and bisexual women, trans women, refugee women, young women, and older women experience different, multiple barriers to labour market participation, and to progression within their occupation. Disabled women, and some groups of black and minority ethnic women are more likely to be underemployed in terms of skills, and experience higher pay gaps. Disabled, black and minority ethnic, and lesbian, bisexual and trans women are more likely to report higher levels of discrimination, bullying and harassment.

The pay gap is bad for business, and bad for Scotland’s economy because many women are working below their skill level. Companies that treat staff fairly are more productive, more innovative, find it easier to retain skilled staff, and ensure that they have a positive corporate image

* Oct 2018 Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings

What is the difference between the mean and median pay gaps?
Do all women experience these factors in the same way?
Why doesn’t the part-time pay gap compare women’s and men’s part-time pay?
How is the gender pay gap calculated?
Why are pay gaps in the news always different?
Which is more accurate: mean or median?
What are the causes of the gender pay gap?
Why is the hourly rate of pay used to calculate the pay gap?
Is the gender pay gap the same thing as equal pay?
Don’t we have equal pay by now?
What is the difference between the mean and median pay gaps?
Do all women experience these factors in the same way?
Why doesn’t the part-time pay gap compare women’s and men’s part-time pay?
How is the gender pay gap calculated?
Why are pay gaps in the news always different?
Which is more accurate: mean or median?
What are the causes of the gender pay gap?
Why is the hourly rate of pay used to calculate the pay gap?
Is the gender pay gap the same thing as equal pay?
Don’t we have equal pay by now?

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Related publications

Briefing - gender and the workplace, June 2016Briefing - gender and the workplace, June 2016 Close the Gap's briefing to MSPs for the Scottish Parliament debate on gender and the workplace, 29 June 2016

Close the Gap Working Paper 17: Gender Pay Gap StatisticsClose the Gap Working Paper 17: Gender Pay Gap Statistics This paper is an updated version of Working Paper 16: Statistics published in 2016.

Close the Gap Working Paper 20: Gender pay gap statisticsClose the Gap Working Paper 20: Gender pay gap statistics This paper provides the latest gender pay gap statistics for Scotland and revisits the complexities of measuring and reporting on the pay gap.

Everything you wanted to know about the gender pay gap but were afraid to askEverything you wanted to know about the gender pay gap but were afraid to ask This briefing aims to answer the most commonly asked questions about the pay gap.

Joint response to the Scottish Parliament Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Committee inquiry report into the gender pay gapJoint response to the Scottish Parliament Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Committee inquiry report into the gender pay gap Gender equality organisations Close the Gap, Engender, Equate Scotland, Scottish Women’s Aid and Zero Tolerance welcome the report of the Scottish Parliament Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Committee inquiry into the gender pay gap, and call for action.

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Submission to the UK Women and Equalities Committee inquiry into the pay gapSubmission to the UK Women and Equalities Committee inquiry into the pay gap Close the Gap's written evidence to the UK Women and Equalities Committee inquiry into the gender pay gap for women aged over 40 years.

Submission to Women and Equalities Committee inquiry into sexual harassmentSubmission to Women and Equalities Committee inquiry into sexual harassment Close the Gap's written submission to the UK Women and Equalities Committee inquiry into sexual harassment in the workplace.

The Gender Penalty: Exploring the causes and solutions to Scotland's gender pay gapThe Gender Penalty: Exploring the causes and solutions to Scotland's gender pay gap This paper presents research which looks at the causes of Scotland’s gender pay gap, and how the causes have changed.

Women's sector response to the Gender Recognition Act consultationWomen's sector response to the Gender Recognition Act consultation Close the Gap worked with Engender, Scottish Women's Aid, Rape Crisis Scotland, Zero Tolerance and Equate Scotland to produce a joint response to the Scottish Government consultation on proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act.

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