Lovewell’s logic: Embracing equity on International Women’s Day

On Wednesday, we celebrated International Women’s Day. The theme of this year’s campaign was ‘embrace equity’, aiming to get the world talking about why equal opportunities are not enough, and the importance of equitable actions if true inclusion and belonging is to be achieved.

Many employers have already recognised this need, and have made advances in improving equity in their organisation, but there can be no disputing that disparities still exist.

When it comes to organisations’ reward propositions, for example, there are still some significant gaps when it comes to pay and pensions. Research published this month by trade union Prospect, Tackling the gender pensions gap, found that the gender pensions gap for 2020-2021 – the latest period for which data is available – is estimated to stand at 40.5%. This is the highest gender pensions gap since 2015-2016, when it was deemed to be 40.7%.

One of the causes behind the gender pensions gap is the impact of motherhood on womens’ careers and remuneration. There is still a widely held assumption in society that mothers are primarily responsible for childcare, despite large numbers of fathers also taking – or wishing to take – on this role. For some, this means returning to work in part or flexi-time roles, for others it means taking a career break or leaving the workforce altogether.

Of late, this appears to have been accelerated by the exorbitant cost of childcare in the UK. Research published by Pregnant Then Screwed last week found that three-quarters (76%) of the mothers surveyed who pay for childcare said it no longer makes financial sense for them to work. Two-thirds (67%) of all parents surveyed said this was the case.

Even when mothers are able to remain in employment following the birth of a child, the so-called ‘motherhood penalty’ has also contributed to a widening in the gender pay gap. According to PWC’s Women in work report published earlier this week, the UK’s average gender pay gap increased by 2.4 percentage points in 2021 to 14.4%.

Although this is by no means an issue that only impacts female employees, the fact is that giving birth puts many are at a disadvantage, due to a drop in salary during periods of maternity leave, not to mention other factors affecting their employment and earnings long-term.

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While such gaps are fundamentally being driven by wider societal issues, such as the high cost of childcare, even with some employers taking great steps forward in this area, how long will it be before we are truly able to achieve equity in the workplace?

Debbie Lovewell-Tuck
Tweet: @DebbieLovewell