This week’s figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) which showed that the gender pay gap is now at its narrowest since 1997, made for encouraging reading.
According to its latest Annual survey of hours and earnings, 2013 provisional results, the gender pay gap overall has fallen to 9.4% compared with 10% last year. Meanwhile in the private sector, the gap has narrowed from 19.2% to 17%.
And for women under the age of 40, the gender pay gap has disappeared entirely, with female employees earning a higher hourly wage than men for the first time since the late 90s.
But while this is undoubtedly a step in the right direction, we should bear in mind that these stats come just two weeks after Equal Pay Day, the point in the year at which female employees effectively stop being paid for the year and work for ‘free’ unlike their male colleagues.
If the gender pay gap is to become a thing of the past, employees and employers both have key roles to play.
With financial education now taking place in schools, girls should be taught their worth at an early age and equipped with the tools and confidence to take future employers to task over pay levels.
Meanwhile, employers should do more to challenge existing pay structures and cultural norms in their organisation.
I’m sure that there are many employers that do not intentionally set out to apply different pay scales to male and female employees, but do so due to deeply entrenched structures within their organisations that may be tricky to unpick.
Only by challenging the legacy causes of the gender pay gap and installing much greater transparency will it become a thing of the past.