The Confederation of British Industry has called on the government to introduce a target for cutting the gender pay gap.
The gender pay gap has been the subject of fierce debate in the past few years, especially as wages have come under additional pressure as a result of the economic downturn.
Much has been written about how to reach a state where women’s average earnings are equal with those of men, and the latest contribution has come from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).
According to the business organisation’s latest report, the government needs to introduce a nationwide target for reducing the gender pay gap. That would shine a spotlight on progress in the same way that the recent review by Lord Davies has drawn attention to the issue of female representation on company boards.
Women earn less than men on average for a number of reasons, but one of the major contributors is the fact that women are more likely to work part-time.
For some, that comes from a conscious decision to spend more time at home with their families, while for others it is a response to the high cost of childcare.
But advances such as the introduction of a right to request flexible working could make it easier for parents of both genders to balance their work and family lives.
In fact, CBI says that quality childcare must be combined with more action to promote the benefits of flexible working in future – this will allow more women the opportunities to progress their careers and boost their earnings.
However, in many industries the gender pay gap is perpetuated by a relative lack of female talent – sectors such as manufacturing and engineering, for example, are still struggling with a lack of gender diversity. At a time when serious skills gaps are beginning to emerge, that isn’t something these sectors can afford.
To lure more women into these industries, CBI is arguing that the government needs to invest more in careers advice at school, encouraging girls to develop an interest in science subjects so they can play a bigger role in the future.
Crucially, employers would be expected to engage with careers services with government support.
“Currently, too many areas of work – often those with high pay potential – are seen as male-dominated, with women steered away from options that would give them better access to higher pay and seniority,” says Katja Hall, deputy director-general at CBI.
“This simply has to change. We must focus on tackling the pay gap by providing the right careers advice in schools and boosting support in the workplace for career development.”
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