Women hit by large pay gap 'in all sectors'

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The Independent Online

The huge pay gap between male and female academics revealed in The Independent yesterday exists in every sector of the job market, according to the head of the Equal Opportunities Commission.

The huge pay gap between male and female academics revealed in The Independent yesterday exists in every sector of the job market, according to the head of the Equal Opportunities Commission.

Referring to differences of up to £20,000 a year at some universities, Julie Mellor, who chairs the commission, said there was an urgent need for employers in all parts of industry to conduct the kind of analysis produced by the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education to discover the full extent of the wage divide.

Ms Mellor pointed out that the financial sector generally came out the worst with many women earning little more than half of the salaries commanded by their male colleagues.

However, pay discrimination was "still hidden", she said. "Until an organisation takes responsibility and decides to do an analysis they won't know. The trouble is, it's a British taboo. We don't talk about earnings.

"Senior managers often ask me if the pay gap between men and women really is 20 per cent. They invariably say it doesn't happen in their own organisation. But they don't know if they don't conduct an audit. Whenever research is done, people are shocked."

It was not just a question of men being paid more for the same or similar jobs, Ms Mellor said, it was the fact that women were not promoted through the grades.

Analysis of official data by Nicola Allison of the research group Incomes Data Services showed that female doctors on an average £821.10 a week, pharmacists on £483.40, and university lecturers on £546 were paid up to one-fifth less than their male counterparts.

The median pay of male civil servants stands at £19,000 compared with £14,000 for women, according to official figures. And out of the top 3,000 jobs in the Civil Service - where pay ranges from £41,550 to £168,910 - just 18 per cent are filled by women. Among the most senior 600, the proportion drops to 13 per cent.

Alan Churchard, deputy general secretary of the PCS Civil Service union, said the Government had agreed to increase the proportions respectively to 35 per cent and 25 per cent. "These are ambitious targets. They are going to have to make a hell of a lot more progress than they have over the last few years."

Female teachers encounter a similar problem. In secondary schools, 53 per cent of staff are women on salaries of up to £23,193 in basic grades. But only 27 per cent of headteachers - most of whom earn between £41,868 and £52,194 - are women.

Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said equality of opportunity was supposed to have been introduced in the Sixties. "That was the theory, but in practice men are still being promoted over women. Female teachers are still hitting their heads on the glass ceiling."

Throughout the economy the average weekly wage of women in full-time work is £309.60 - 72 per cent of the male median of £427.10.

Women in the banking, finance and insurance sector earn just 55.6 per cent of the wage paid to their male counterparts who receive an average of £678.10. In education, women earn 84.9 per cent of the average male earnings of £440.80

As far as occupational groups are concerned, female craft workers do the worst, earning 63.9 per cent of the male average of £367 a week. Those who do best are in clerical and secretarial work where women receive 89.4 per cent of the male average of £299.10.

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