'Depressing' £13,000 gender pay gap still growing

PUBLISHED: 09:02 14 December 2015

Archant

A GROWING gender pay gap in North Somerset is dividing the district by more than £13,000 a year - with the average male employee now earning 50 per cent more than female workers.

"It’s something that needs to be closed, but It’s going to be a long, hard battle."

Melanie David, Weston Soroptimists

The mean full-time wage in the district for men is £39,035, dwarfing the equivalent for women, which lies at £25,815, and the gap is rising year-on-year.

The news was branded ‘depressing reading’ by leading businesswomen in the area, who said there would be ‘a long, hard battle’ ahead to address the inequality.

Angela Hicks, chief executive of North Somerset Enterprise Agency, said: “It’s very disappointing because women represent a huge part of the national workforce, and it’s something which needs to be addressed with urgency.

“There’s a traditional motherhood penalty which falls on women to do the childcare role and be more flexible in their working practice, and that is penalised by companies in many cases.

“That’s what we hear from support organisations we work with. In the recession there were a lot of women going into self-employment, but they are finding it difficult too.

“There are a lot of things employers can do to help remove some of those barriers, as mothers returning to work tend to have less access to training and money.”

North Somerset’s gender gap is among the highest in the country, and more than double Bristol’s. Nearly 40 per cent of women take home less than the national living wage, a standard measure of working poverty.

Sedgemoor fares a little better, with the difference at £8,549.

Beverley Milner-Simonds, Burnham’s town centre manager, called for better wages for women in the district.

She said: “The figures make for depressing reading. The challenge is there for South West employers to see women here are underpaid in relation to male colleagues and family members.

“Women are more likely to be working in sectors that have a history of low pay, like care work, and the impact of this disparity must be felt every day in the purses of South West working women.”

Across the whole region, women classed as health professionals experience the most significant pay difference – an average of £19,400 less than male counterparts.

Those in the role of manager, director or officials also lose out, by more than £15,000 a year.

Melanie David, of Weston Soroptimists, said: “Women are traditionally put into caring jobs and whether the low pay comes about because they are women, or because the jobs are deemed to be worth less money is up for debate.

“I think a lot of this is the fact that it’s hard for woman to get to the top in areas like academia and commerce.

“It’s something that needs to be closed, but It’s going to be a long, hard battle.

“Girls often think they can’t go into certain sectors and that’s why we do an annual science event to show them there are lots of different jobs they can do.”

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