Gender pay gap: where are all the senior women?

Like many, we’re disappointed with recent news that the gender pay gap is widening, with four in 10 private businesses reporting wider gaps than last year, according to the BBC.

But whilst the government’s gender pay gap initiative will go some way to highlighting pay imbalances between men and women, this transparency alone clearly isn’t enough to drive the fundamental change that will bring about gender equality.

22 February 2019

Let's start with gender inequality in the workplace. How bad is it? Various research sources tell us that up to mid-management level, there is a 50:50 male/female gender split. However from mid-management upwards, the pipeline of women represented in senior roles reduces significantly - making gender diversity a very real - and serious - business issue.

One of the primary reasons for this pipeline shrinkage is that women still take up the majority of primary carer roles within families. When they return to the workplace, they’re opting for roles that fit around their families and family life - therefore reducing their capacity to return to a traditional full-time, 9-to-5 position.

As a result it isn’t unusual for us to speak to women who are working well below their skill set, having gone back into work in lower-paid, lower-skilled part-time positions that many are overqualified for - simply in order to get the flexibility and work-life balance that they need.

In addition, those that have been granted flexibility at their current professional level, usually for ‘long service’, can find that they stand out as the only one in a team, often then overlooked for future promotions.

In reality, the first step in reducing the gender pay gap is to tackle gender inequality in the workplace. Businesses are waking up to this fact however; in fact, when headhunting for clients, we often get specific requests for senior female candidates as firms actively look to address a gender imbalance within their business by balancing their candidate pool.

Furthermore, the most enlightened businesses are increasingly recognising the benefits of an agile, flexible and diverse workforce and that in order to attract the top talent in the market (both male and female), they need to consider if the role can be worked flexibly, whether that’s part-time or full-time with flex.

Offering flexible hours to all job applicants will help combat pay disparities between men and women, a fact that the Equality & Human Rights Commission endorses. However it isn’t easy to move to an assumption of flexible working by default. It requires a shift in culture - particularly in businesses that favour a traditional working pattern or those that pigeon-hole flexibility as a ‘women’s issue’.

In our view, until women are able to choose a career alongside having a family, the gender pay gap will remain solid and intact. Opening up senior roles and allowing them to be worked flexibly can - and will - have a direct impact. However until flexibility becomes the norm, rather than the exception, for men and women, we think that we’re unlikely to see the gap narrowing significantly.

Flexology provide recruitment, training and consultancy services, we’re proving that flexible working attracts the brightest & best candidates. We’ve worked client-side for all of our careers, we are experienced business leaders, we understand that to attract, retain and grow the brightest and best talent requires a work environment that brings out the best in people.

To find out how we can help you please get in touch. Cal us on 0117 214 1224 or email