Baroness Jay of Paddington, minister for Women, said yesterday that the causes for the pay gap began before girls reached the age of 20, resulting in women suffering from a "forfeit of pay".
Such deep-rooted inequalities meant that an average mother of two forgoes 55 per cent of her potential earnings over her lifetime - which amounts to an estimated pounds 230,000, research for the Government's Women's Unit found.
Lady Jay said it was "startling" that pay inequalities were not necessarily linked to educational qualifications but to a lack of information at school which meant there was a "cost to being female".
She said: "There is something about being a woman which means you suffer a forfeit on pay, which is depressing. This is an in-built disadvantage for women, which increases even further when they have children."
The findings were disclosed as EU-wide research found that women in Britain earn less than three-quarters as much as men for equivalent work, even lower than the European average of 76.3 per cent. The pay gap is even bigger among self-employed workers, with women earning just 39 per cent of the sum achieved by their male counterparts.
Lady Jay said ministers would aim to improve information and advice given to teenage girls. But they would also seek to improve young women's financial literacy to set up their own businesses. The Treasury wanted to encourage banks and insurance companies to lend money to women entrepreneurs.Reuse content