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19 August 2010updated 27 Sep 2015 2:14am

The gender pay gap will not close for 57 years

New research suggests it will take two generations for women to achieve pay parity with men.

By Samira Shackle

Working women face a 57-year wait before they are paid the same as their male colleagues, according to new research.

The study, by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), shows that female managers’ pay rose by 2.8 per cent in the past 12 months, while male managers’ pay rose by 2.3 per cent. However, women on average earned £10,000 less than their male counterparts. If change continues at this rate, it will take 57 years for the gap to close.

The findings, from more than 43,000 employees across 200 organisations, show that male pay exceeds female pay by as much as 24 per cent at senior level. Even at a junior level, male employees earned roughly £1,000 more than their female peers.

It’s a depressing state of affairs. The pay gap exists throughout Europe, but is worse than average in the UK: women are paid 79 per cent of male rates, while the EU average is 82 per cent.

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How can this process be speeded up? The key is greater transparency: forcing companies to release details of the salaries they pay to men and women, shaming them into equalising, or at the very least, justifying the discrepancy. In part, the UK’s gender pay gap persists because of the culture of secrecy around salaries: women might not know that they are being underpaid.

However, when Harriet Harman suggested full gender pay audits in 2008, she was met with outrage. The controversial Equality Bill eventually passed this year, in watered-down form — giving government the right to force through full gender pay audits by 2013 if sufficient statistical information has not been given voluntarily.

David Cameron pledged last month to keep parts of the bill, saying that where there was “evidence of unfairness”, firms would be forced to do a full audit. But it is expected to be mandatory only if employers are found guilty of sex discrimination at a tribunal.

As the bill was passed, the then Labour MP Vera Baird said: “The bill will work only if it is driven and pressed through society.” She was right. Given the Conservatives’ response to the Equality Bill, which is lukewarm at best and, on the right wing of the party, vehemently antagonistic, it seems unlikely that the legislation will be enforced. Fifty-seven years it is, then.

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