Written by Holly Curry – Change the Chat CIC www.changethechat.co.uk
Research shows us that the female talent pipeline starts to shrink around mid-management level from being roughly a 50/50 gender split down to around 3% of women at board level; a major factor for the Gender Pay Gap. One of the key reasons for this is that women are still taking up the majority of primary carer roles in families, meaning that their capacity to return to traditional 9 – 5, full time roles is reduced and as a result, there is an over representation of women in low paid, part time work; many of whom are overqualified.
Currently, women are opting for roles that fit around their families which is demonstrated by the 427,000 women in the UK on a career break, of which more than half will return to these lower skilled, part-time roles. Women returners earn around a third less than male counterparts, taking between a 12% and 32% pay cut, causing a bottle neck effect - as salaries rise the presence of women falls.
This affects opportunities for women on many levels; the lack of female presence in senior roles makes it the norm for men to be visible as the decision makers, and a lack of female sponsors for more junior women coming up the ladder continues the cycle of a lack of gender diversity and female presence in senior roles. In this way, it is easy to see how we have become stuck in a traditional, inflexible way of working and why women are excluded from more senior roles and higher earning potential, when their external commitments are equally as inflexible.
Flexibility in the workplace for everyone, at all levels, means that women are more able to progress, and more able to earn higher salaries. More women in senior level roles has a direct, immediate, and tangible impact on the Gender Pay Gap, as well as igniting a less tangible, positive shift in cultural change. Currently, the emphasis on flexibility is within those lower skilled roles; however, we need to start looking up, looking at how we can make roles flexible from the top down. Businesses need a cultural shift – as opposed to waiting for individual requests for flexibility.
Until flexibility is the norm, women will be stunted in their careers and in their potential to earn salaries equal to their male counterparts and the Gender Pay Gap will remain as prevalent as it is today.