International Women’s Day highlights the ongoing issue of the gender pay gap.

The 8 March 2018 marks International Women’s Day, which celebrates women and their achievements around the world by highlighting the work that has taken place to promote women’s equality and human rights.

Whilst the aim of the celebration is to recognise the positive advancements that have taken place, it is also an opportunity to remember that there are still many areas that require improvement before true equality is achieved. This issue has been further fuelled in the last 12 months by the development of the #MeToo and #TimesUp campaigns.

This year’s theme highlights the ongoing issue of disparity in pay between men and women. The World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap Report suggests that in accordance with current trends, true gender parity is alarmingly over 200 years away. The gender pay gap is identified by calculating the percentage difference between the average hourly earnings for men and women. According to the Office of National Statistics, in April 2017 women across the UK on average earned 18.4% less than men.

The issue of pay has been a hot topic over the last 12 months, with household names such as the Ladbrokes, Easyjet and Virgin Money being accused of gender bias when it comes to pay following the publication of their gender pay gap calculation. By April 2018 all companies with more than 250 employees must publish their gender pay gap data. It is estimated that this means around 9,000 employers will need to calculate their gender pay gap and publish it on a government website.

In addition to the gender pay gap, the issue of equal pay also remains in the spotlight. Tesco is currently facing Britain’s largest ever equal pay claim, with the possible bill running to £4 billion.

In accordance with the Equality Act 2010 men and women doing the same job should be paid the same. This has been a legal requirement for 47 years, which makes it all the more disappointing that inequality appears to remain an issue today. That being said, improvements are being made in some areas. According to research carried out by management consultants McKinsey, the number of women on the boards of FTSE listed businesses has increased significantly since 2011. Although only 7 FTSE 100 companies currently have female chief executives.

Further, UK firms are well above the global average, with around 15% of executive roles being held by women. However, by comparison this figure is 19% in the US and 21% in Australia.

It was recognised by Lady Barbara Judge, who is the first female Chairman of the Institute of Directors, that the main cause of the gender pay gap is the fact that far fewer women progress up the work ladder when compared to men. She called for more to be done to ensure that women reach the executive level.

Christine Hart, Head of Employment says “recent years have seen the introduction of a number of changes which sought to redress the imbalance between the genders, such as the expansion of the right to request flexible working and the introduction of shared parental leave. Although the uptake on these changes has been less than was hoped for, it remains to be seen whether the new gender pay gap reporting procedures and the current spotlight upon gender inequality will result in a more level playing field in the future.”