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Equal pay must be a top priority

Another day and another survey highlights the discrimination women still face in many workplaces.

The latest analysis highlights a gender pay gap at management levels, based on a survey of more than 4,000 professionals in Scotland.

The new data shows a discrepancy of £8,347 between the pay of female and male managers. This divide,which shows senior women employees earning approximately three-quarters of what their male counterparts do, is not inevitable.

Why is it that so many women who have left to raise families fall behind in terms of career and salary? In many professions it can only really be the result of institutional prejudice.

Women are plainly penalised for taking time out to have a family. Yet for every woman who genuinely falls behind by missing out on important experience, say, or career development opportunities, there are surely several more who simply penalised for not being ever-present. These workers can perform just as competently as the men who have not had career breaks for parenting but whose advantage is purely in terms of time served.

This is another way of saying lower levels of pay for women managers can rarely be justified. Such a view is shared by Ann Francke, chief executive of the Chartered Management Institute, which carried out the survey. Old-fashioned pay policies that put the emphasis on time served should be stamped out, she says.

At the moment, however, the figures suggest that when women return to the workforce, the deficit only worsens.

While the CMI survey applies to managers, we know from other research that women suffer across the whole of the employment market.

Women are paid 19.1 per cent less than men on average, according to a report from the Fawcett Society this week, while the increasingly tenuous nature of employment in the current jobs market seems to be particularly exploitative of women.

Since the start of the recession almost one million more women have taken on low-paid, insecure jobs.

This is the other side of the barriers placed in the way of women advancing at work. The Fawcett Society claims one fifth of women currently earning the minimum wage have degrees.

The principle that cannot be questioned is that women at all levels who do the same job as men should receive the same salary. Increasingly, where this is not the case, women are able to seek redress through the courts. But it should not be necessary. Employers who have not already examined whether such anomalies exist within their own organisations should make it a priority to do so.

Businesses and individual men have a role to play in encouraging and developing female managers, the CMI suggests, while employers should also be benchmarking their progress in equal pay and promotion.

The role models and the evidence are there to demonstrate the abilities of women in the workplace. Employers must make it a priority not just to reward that fairly, but to prove they are doing so.

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Careers and Jobs

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