Gender wage gap figures make for shocking reading as women must wait two more centuries for equality

All companies, charities and public sector bodies with more than 250 employees were required to publish the difference in the hourly rate paid to men and women last week. Some of publications have made for shocking reading.

Nine out of ten public sector employers pay men more than women, with women paid on average 14 per cent less than male colleagues. Of the private companies that have filed their figures, 78 per cent pay men more than women.

Just eight per cent said they had no gender pay gap at all, based on the median measure. In some cases the gender pay gap is enormous – rising to more than 70 per cent. It might not be surprising then that in male dominated sectors such as banking and finance, bonus gaps of more than 60 per cent were not uncommon.

The arguments that have arisen over the past week disputing the publication of these figures could have been predicted: But women choose to work in lower paid sectors. But women choose to take time out from their careers to raise families. But women have more opportunities today than the previous generation, which explains the predominance of older, well paid men at the top of many sectors.

However female dominated workforces such as academy schools were shown to have some of the worst gender pay gaps in the UK, and in retail, gender pay gaps were as high as 50 per cent.

Take Conde Naste for example, the magazine publishing powerhouse which brings us the major glossy magazines including Vogue, GQ and Vanity Fair. Their published data has revealed almost 80 per cent of reporting employees found that their male employees earn more than their female co-workers do.

What makes this even more shocking, is that Conde Naste employs three times as many women as men, and they have more women than men at every pay grade.

The publication of the gender pay-gap figures is a welcome start. But what we have learned in the past week is that there is still a huge amount of work to be done to ensure women are paid fairly. Depressingly, figures from the World Economic Forum suggest that far from being another century until the gender pay gap is closed, it could be two centuries before we reach pay equality. This is simply not good enough.

In Scotland, the SNP Government has a proud track record in equality issues – an example is ensuring greater pay transparency, by lowering the threshold for listed public authorities to report their gender pay gap and publish equal pay statements. And we have also pledged an increase in early learning and childcare provision, from 600 to 1,140 hours a year, as well as playing an active role in the Family Friendly Working Scotland Partnership.

The UK government has made a start by auditing the pay gap in larger companies, but auditing isn’t enough. Real action must be taken to ensure we are making a difference in those companies, driving change and bringing equality closer every day.