While the UK’s gender pay gap has been slowly narrowing over time, the latest employee earnings figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that millions of UK workers are employed in occupations where men are paid more than women.
New analysis of the ONS’s 2023 gender pay gap data, by HR and payroll software provider Ciphr, has revealed that a shocking 78% of all full-time job roles in the UK, and 81% of such roles held by 50,000 or more workers, have a gender pay gap in favour of men.
That’s around four in five occupations with a gender-based pay disparity. Of those, well over a quarter (30%) pay men at least 10% more per hour, on average, while a third (32%) pay men between 5% and 9% more.
Over a year, this could easily add up to a gender pay difference of several thousand pounds (or more, depending on base salary). And, over the course of a career, it will impact many women’s lifetime earnings and may well have repercussions on their pension savings.
Around 12.9 million people (4.9 million women and 8 million men) are employed full-time in professions with a gender pay gap of 1% or higher in favour of men (in April 2023) – ranging from 26.2% for financial managers and directors down to 1% for waiters and waitresses, and youth and community workers.
Years of inclusive policies, publicity, and initiatives aimed at reducing gender pay disparities appear to be falling far short of expectations, as men’s hourly pay continues to exceed women’s hourly pay in most occupations and across nearly every UK industry (all but two sectors – mining and quarrying, and other service activities – pay men more).
The UK’s average median gender pay gap for full-time workers has remained relatively unchanged for the last three years. Full-time female employees must still contend with a 7.7% pay gap – the same gap that existed for them in 2021 (in 2022 it was 7.6%). This means that, on an hourly basis, women typically earn 92p for every pound earned by a man.
Based on median hourly earnings, across all occupations, Ciphr’s gender pay gap study found just two job roles – national government administrative occupations and senior care workers – where full-time workers benefited from gender pay parity.
Popular careers – those with the largest numbers of full-time workers – appear the most likely to have pay disparities. Every job role held by over 200,000 full-time employees in the UK has a gender pay gap in favour of men. This includes job titles such as IT manager, financial adviser, schoolteacher, registered nurse, retail manager, and LGV driver.
Even in the largest occupations where women predominate, they still often get paid less than men on average. At least 60% of the UK’s full-time care workers, secondary school teachers, administrative and clerical assistants (other administrative occupations n.e.c.), bookkeepers, payroll managers and wages clerks, and primary school teachers, are women. Yet, all these job roles have a gender pay gap that favours male employees (0.3%, 4.9%, 5.1%, 6%, and 0.9% respectively).
The same cannot be said for jobs with a higher concentration of men in the workforce, such as full-time programmers and software development professionals, for example. The median hourly pay gap between what the 443,800 male programmers and software developers in the UK are paid, compared to what the 81,100 women in such roles earn, is 9.6%. This disappointing trend of women earning less, on average, than men is repeated across most (86%) job roles that are predominantly held by men.
Roles that are considerably more gender-balanced don’t fare much better when it comes to the gender pay gap. Despite a relatively similar number of men and women being employed as generalist medical practitioners (including GPs and hospital doctors), sales and retail assistants, and marketing and commercial managers, the women employed full-time in such jobs typically only earn an average of 85p for every pound earned by a man.
The 10 most popular full-time professions in 2023, ranked by the widest gender pay gaps, are:
- Financial managers and directors: 305,200 employees (26.2% gender pay gap in favour of men)
- Business and financial project management professionals: 283,300 employees (11.3%)
- Programmers and software development professionals: 524,900 employees (9.6%)
- Bookkeepers, payroll managers and wages clerks: 296,100 employees (6%)
- Other administrative occupations n.e.c. – including admin and clerical assistants: 349,500 employees (5.1%)
- Secondary education teaching professionals: 350,800 employees (4.9%)
- Warehouse operatives: 335,400 employees (4.8%)
- Primary education teaching professionals: 277,500 employees (0.9%)
- Care workers and home carers: 430,600 employees (0.3%)
Looking at the gender pay gap data by major occupational groups rather than specific roles reveals an even bleaker picture of persistent pay inequality for women in the workplace.
Over 8 in 10 (86%) of the 26 sub-major groups of full-time occupations in the UK (as classified by the ONS) pay men more than women. Some have far wider pay gaps than the UK average of 7.7%.
Take full-time health professionals, for example. Although its 1.1 million workforce is predominantly female (around seven women to three men), it has one of the widest gender pay gaps at 10.6%.
Corporate managers and directors is the fourth largest occupational group, with 2.5 million full-time workers (just a third of which are women) and the third widest gender pay gap at 12%.
Business and public service associate professionals (including occupations such as training managers, estate agents, legal associates, business sales executives, event managers, sports instructors, and accounting technicians) has a sizeable 12.5% gender pay gap (the second biggest in the UK).
Women working as process, plant and machine operatives (including drivers and couriers), however, are the furthest from pay parity. The gender pay gap in favour of men for roles in this occupational group is the worst in the UK at 13.9%.
Claire Williams, chief people officer at Ciphr, says: “The latest gender pay gap figures are incredibly disappointing and frustrating – there’s no other way to view them.
“The gender pay gap is slowly closing – and, generally, more full-time job roles in the UK have decreased their gender pay gaps than increased them over the past year, which is encouraging. But, there is still such a long way to go to close the gap. Far more needs to be done by employers, and quickly, to reduce embedded salary discrepancies and ensure people are fairly rewarded for the value they bring to an organisation.
“The onus is on all employers – and their leaders – to play their part in championing equal progression for all up the career ladder. Better representation of women and ethnic minorities at all levels, in all roles, is a vital part of driving meaningful change and achieving pay equality.”
Ann Allcock, head of diversity at Ciphr and Marshall E-Learning, says: “Ciphr’s analysis of the gender pay gaps for different occupations is both interesting and revealing. This year’s stats are not completely unexpected, of course, but disappointing just the same.
“That so few job roles don’t have a reported gender pay gap, and so many do, is an important flag for employers. It shows that there’s much to be done and that organisations must focus their efforts on what they can do to change the status quo and help fix the gap. The most obvious first step for employers is to ensure that they fully understand what factors could be contributing to the gender pay gap within their own business.
“Overarching causes of the gender pay gap can include direct gender stereotyping and pay discrimination; occupational segregation – where there’s a gender imbalance in a role’s workforce, which can skew wages (such as more CEOs being men, or more PAs being women); the part-time pay penalty; women’s disproportionate unpaid caring responsibilities – where they may require more flexible working arrangements to support children or older relatives; the ‘broken rung’ on the corporate ladder – where women may not have the same promotion opportunities to advance to management as men, particularly at the beginning of their careers; and, as this research highlights, the higher concentration of women in lower-paid roles and sectors.
“So, what can employers do? Make tackling the gender pay gap a business priority. I’d recommend conducting regular equal pay audits (as, although equal pay and the gender pay gap are different topics, unequal pay can influence the gap); promoting flexible working and parental leave options to all parents and carers; and reviewing policies and practices on starting salaries, performance-related pay, and bonus eligibility.
“Most importantly, ensure you have robust reporting capabilities in place – that can track your gender pay gap, take-up rates of flexible working, starting salaries by different genders, and return rates after maternity leave.
“It’s also worth considering how your recruitment and promotion practices may be affecting men and women differently, because that can have a big impact on attracting and retaining the best employees.”