Business world's ambivalence contributes to continuing pay gap

Why does the gender gap persist so stubbornly in technology? Today’s Chartered Management Institute and Xpert HR report didn’t bring good news for any working woman – on average, women will have to wait 57 years to get paid the same as men – but in IT it’s particularly bad, with the wait extending to 63 years, the longest of all the sectors.

The National Management Salary Survey came up with the figures by working out how long average female salaries will take to reach male levels at the current rate of growth. It says female salaries in the IT sector increased by 2.1 per cent in the last 12 months, compared to 1.4 per cent for men. But with male managers earning on average £17,736 more than female managers, it will take them 63 years to catch up unless something changes fairly drastically.

The general argument goes that women lose earning power when they take time off to look after children, so increasing the gap. This in itself is ridiculous – someone has to look after them. (What would be preferable? A kids’ corner in every office? Legislation insisting fathers take on 50 per cent of child care?) But the report also finds a disparity between men and women lower down the career ladder, with male junior executives receiving £1,119 more than their female counterparts. If this is correct – and if women are getting paid less in entry level positions – something’s gone a bit wrong.

Women were also targeted disproportionately by last year’s redundancies, with 4.5 per cent experiencing the process compared to three per cent of men. And those who managed to avoid redundancy were disproportionately more likely to feel wholly fed up with their jobs – at director level, 7.7 per cent of women voluntarily left their posts last year, while 3.6 per cent of men did the same.

These figures are for business in general, not just IT. But they do show that there needs to be a cultural shift in business that in many workplaces simply hasn’t happened yet, and IT is no certainly exception. Girls need to be better encouraged into business and technology; they need to be given more confidence and actively supported into traditionally male arenas. Women need to be promoted more and given more opportunity to develop – not only are they not being taught the assertiveness and confidence they need to flourish in the business world, they can sometimes find a somewhat hostile (or at least wholly indifferent) environment once they get there. Many are lucky, and find their niche; others persevere against the odds and succeed anyway. But the majority of women won’t see real and satisfying success in the business world until that world stops being wholly ambivalent towards the challenges they face and the hostility that can be directed towards them.

The UK will be in no position to smugly lecture other countries about women’s rights until its own women are viewed as genuinely equal to men – these figures show this just isn’t the case yet.