Despite David Cameron’s vow last summer to “end the gender pay gap in a generation”, the UK is still lagging behind the European average when it comes to gender equality at work, according to a Glassdoor study.
The UK comes 11th out of 18 European countries – behind the Nordics, France and Spain, the research found.
Sweden, Norway and Finland had the highest gender equality in the workplace. Italy, Greece and Ireland had the lowest scores.
Glassdoor Economic Research, conducted by Llewyn Consulting, compared 18 European countries and the US on 12 key measures. These included the gap between female and male employment rates, female representation on corporate boards and top management as well as the “cost of motherhood” in term of lower wages for mothers.
British mothers are significantly worse off than those in Italy, the study found. The “cost of motherhood”, or the difference between what men get paid compared to women with at least one child, is 14 per cent in the UK.
It is highest by far in Ireland at 31 per cent but stands at only 3 per cent or lower in Spain, Belgium and Italy.
Joeli Brearley, founder of the online project “Pregnant Then Screwed”, which aims to raise awareness of pregnancy discrimination in the UK, said it is a nuanced issue and many factors can contribute to the increase in the gender pay gap when a women becomes a mother.
“It is telling that the country which has the worst score, Ireland, offers no legal rights to any leave for fathers after the birth of a child,” she told The Independent.
Italy, the country that fares best, has a “culture of family” which means that grandparents will often look after the children while the parents work, alleviating problems with childcare costs, according to Brearley.
The cost of childcare in the UK is one of the highest in Western nations. Of all the other countries in Europe, only Ireland charges rates equally as high as the UK for two and three-year-olds in full-time day care.
“The data shows a really interesting picture of how flexible working, childcare costs, culture, maternity and paternity-leave time and pay can have a positive or negative affect on women in the workplace,” Brearley said.
There are fewer women than men in the workplace in the UK but the gap considerably narrows for those with a university education, the study showed. In contrast, Sweden, Norway and Finland all have an almost equal balance of men and women in the labour market and can be a lesson for the UK, according to Dr Andrew Chamberlain, chief economist at Glassdoor.
The world's 15 most powerful women in 2015
The world's 15 most powerful women in 2015
1/15 Angela Merkel - German Chancellor
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has retained her number one ranking for topping this year’s Forbes list for the fifth consecutive year and ten times in total.
2/15 Hillary Clinton - Presidential candidate, United States
Clinton, who could become the world’s most powerful leader in 2016, has been featured on the list every year since it launched in 2014.
3/15 Melinda Gates - Cochair, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Melinda Gates has cemented her dominance in philanthropy and global development to the tune of $3.9 billion in giving in 2014 and more than $33 billion in grant payments since she founded the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with her husband in 2000.
4/15 Janet Yellen - Chair, Federal Reserve, Washington, United States
Janet Yellen made history in 2014 when she became the first female head of the Federal Reserve.
5/15 Marry Barra - CEO of General Motors
Mary Barra made history by becoming the first female CEO of General Motors.
6/15 Christina Lagarde - Managing director, International Monetary Fund
Christine Lagarde is entering the last year of her first term heading the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the organisation which serves as economic advisor and backstop for 188 countries. Under Lagarde the IMF has supported efforts to increase female labor force participation as way to reduce poverty and inequality. The UK, Germany, China, France and Korea have endorsed Christine Lagarde for another term as the head of the IMF.
7/15 Dilma Rousseff - President, Brazil
Dilma Rousseff, who has been elected in 2010, is Brazil's first female president.
8/15 Sheryl Sandberg - COO of Facebook
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO and author of bestseller “Lean In,” joined the company in 2008 and became the first woman on its board four years later. Sandberg helped the social network go public and expand digital revenue.
9/15 Susan Wojcicki - CEO of Youtube
Susan Wojcicki is CEO of YouTube, the world’s most popular digital video platform used by over a billion people across the globe. She oversees YouTube's content and business operations, engineering, and product development.
10/15 Michelle Obama - First lady, United States
Michelle Obama, the 44th first lady of the United States has focused her attention on issues such as the support of military families, helping working women balance career and family and encouraging national service.
11/15 Park Geun-hye - President, South Korea
Park Geun-hye is the first female leader of a country that has the highest level of gender inequality in the developed world. In her inauguration speech, she promised to prioritise both national security and economic revitalisation.
12/15 Oprah Winfrey - Actress, Director/Producer, Entrepreneur, Personality, Philanthropist
Oprah Winfrey, a former queen of daytime TV has proven she can thrive without a talkshow. Her 'The Life You Want' tour sold out stadiums from Newark to Seattle in 2014.
13/15 Ginni Rometty - CEO of IBM
Ginni Rometty joined IBM in 1981 and later became the first woman to lead the company.
14/15 Meg Whitman - CEO of Hewlett-Packard
Meg Whitman is the only woman to have headed two large U.S. public companies: eBay and Hewlett-Packard.Until Marissa Mayer's arrival at Yahoo, she was the only female head of a leading Internet-based company.
15/15 Indra Nooyi - CEO of PepsiCo
Indra Nooyi is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of PepsiCo. Mrs. Nooyi leads one of the world’s largest convenient food and beverage companies, with 2008 annual revenues of more than $43 billion.
The UK also scored high for having one of the biggest proportion of female managers, ranking third, just behind Sweden and Norway.
A report last year from Lord Mervyn Davies, who has been championing gender equality in the boardroom, has shown that FTSE 100 companies have exceeded the target of having 25 per cent women on their boards – more than doubling the number in 2011 when the target was set. However, the figure of 26% in the UK is still 10% lower than in Norway