The gender pay gap

Why are you campaigning on the gender pay gap and not other things, like women's safety or how women are treated in other countries?

No country in the world treats its women as well as its men. Discrimination against women takes many forms. We believe that it is all connected and it is not helpful to compare campaigns as we are all fellow travellers on the road to equality. For example, the gender pay gap has been linked to poorer health for women and is a factor that keeps many women in abusive relationships.

We are campaigning on pay equality as that is what we, as a small group of volunteers, are most able to do, with our skills, experience, and expertise. We encourage you to support other campaigns for equality as well as ours.

Isn't it just that we make different choices? That women are more likely to prefer and choose jobs that are lower paid, whereas men are more suited to sectors which are higher paid? 

We do not make choices in a vacuum. Caring is still seen as women’s work and earning money as a man’s contribution. This feeds through in the stereotypes which start influencing us  in childhood, where girls are given dolls to play with and lead to women being funnelled and encouraged into certain types of roles seen as more ‘feminine,’ ‘nurturing,’ or ‘caring.’ We don’t ask enough questions about why jobs which are typically dominated by women, such as care work or teaching, tend to be lower paid than jobs typically dominated by men, such as finance. Society also pushes unpaid care and domestic work onto women, and does not have the same expectations of men to do chores, or care for their children and older family members.

This animation by the Women’s Budget Group shows how many forms of economic inequality are structural and reinforce each other. 

The gender pay gap can persist even when we do the same jobs and are in the same position. A 2021 report revealed that at director level, men get paid 23% more than women.

More details on how gender stereotyping influences our choices from childhood in this report by the Commission on Gender Stereotypes in Early Childhood.

What causes the gender pay gap?

Many things contribute to the gender pay gap. Women are under-represented in senior, highly-paid roles, which tend to go to men, and are more likely to work in lower-paid roles. We are also more likely to shoulder the burden of unpaid care work, which reduces our ability to work full-time and delays career progression, especially at certain points in our life.

And we are more likely to experience unequal pay, the focus of our campaign, which is when women are paid less than men for doing exactly the same job.

How big was the gender pay gap last year?

In 2022, the gender pay gap of 11.3% meant that on average, women took home £564 less than men every month

Is it only women who are affected?

An ethnicity pay gap also exists. In 2019, BAME* workers were paid an average of 2.3% less than White workers in the UK, ranging from a 23% disparity in London to a 1.4% disparity in Wales. We have chosen an action that has been proven to reduce both ethnic and gender pay disparities.

We also always welcome more perspectives from people of all ethnicities on our campaign.

*We recognise that the term BAME has shortcomings in that it implies all people who are not White and British are a homogenous group with the same experiences, and also that amalgamating all ‘BAME’ pay is likely to mask more stark disparities faced by certain groups. We are using it here as this is the official data.

Salary History

How is asking this question contributing to the gender pay gap, if it is asked of both men and women?

Women are more likely to have been historically underpaid, particularly if they have taken career breaks to care for others. Negotiation allows biases, conscious and unconscious, to creep in, and there is evidence that women are as likely to ask for pay rises as men but less likely to receive them, and that women perceived as strong negotiators often face a backlash.

Our own data revealed that men were more likely to lie in response to this question in order to get a better offer than women were.

We have other policies in place do ensure we don't discriminate. Why do we need this one?

By pinning your offer to a candidate’s previous salary, you risk inheriting any discrimination they may have experienced elsewhere, and undermining your other equality, diversity and inclusion initiatives.

How is asking for salary history detrimental to my company?

This practice damages trust. Our data show that 54% of men and 57% of women feel less positive about their potential employer when asked about their salary history, and 58% of women and 54% of men felt that they got a lower offer due to this question.

Poor trust damages your company's reputation and is bad for retention. We are currently seeing record turnover in what has been termed ‘The Great Resignation,’ making trust even more important. Trust has been shown to be one of the main reasons businesses keep or lose their staff, and research suggests that the average cost of losing an employee is over £30,000.

If using this question means you unwittingly create unequal pay within your organisation, it could put you at risk of lawsuits and consequently financial and reputational losses.

How can companies fairly decide what salary to offer?

Companies have a number of methods available to them to decide the salary they are willing to offer a candidate.

The company can then set the bracket that they are willing to offer and disclose it to candidates.

Will companies lose negotiating power, and therefore money, if they stop using salary history to negotiate? 

While knowing a candidate’s previous salary may seem like a strong negotiating tool, verifying the information they give you is time-consuming, and our data revealed that four in ten (39%) of candidates have lied in response to this question.

You may also wish to consider the damage to your company’s reputation and finances if your use of this question leads to a situation where employees doing the same jobs, with the same skills, responsibilities and experience, are paid differently, as this could be the basis for a tribunal.

What else can a company negotiate with?

Companies can negotiate within the salary bracket they are offering, and also offer non-financial incentives such as the package (stock options, learning and development budget, holidays…) or working conditions (flexible hours, working remotely).

What else can be done, from a hiring perspective, to reduce the gender pay gap?

Our Employer Toolkit lists a range of further actions you can take, including using skill-based tasks in recruitment and advertising a set salary range.

What should I do if I am asked this question?

You should not be dishonest, particularly as a new employer could get this information from your P45. The standard advice is to place a dash in an online form and to turn the question back on the interviewer by asking them what salary they expect to offer for the role. Remain calm, firm, polite and persistent.

Our Campaign and how you can support

Why did you decide to campaign to #EndSalaryHistory?

We analysed the entire recruitment process and discovered that this one question disproportionately contributes to the gender pay gap. Ending salary history is a simple, specific action that can be taken, and there is evidence that it works.

19 US states made it illegal to ask this question, making it possible to do side-by-side comparisons between these states and their neighbouring states. Ending salary history resulted in an 8% pay rise for women and a 13% pay rise for Black people when they switched jobs. Evidence also shows that not asking for salary history results in a greater diversity of candidates being considered.

How will the pledge help?

Pledging to End Salary History shows that your company is serious about equality. It also helps to bring change on the ground straight away and build momentum for wider change nationally, and it is easier to make the case for law change when we can showcase that companies are supportive of the campaign.

I want my employer to pledge. What should I do?

Use the resources on our website to reach out to your own employer to start a conversation about salary history and ask them to take our pledge. We find that most companies include salary history questions as an inherited practice and aren't aware of how much it props up the gender pay gap, and businesses may also be over-estimating the business benefits of asking candidates for their last salary. You could make a huge difference to your own workplace culture and your future colleagues by asking your employer to take the pledge. You can also send us the emails of your DEI rep, CEO or COO if you would be more comfortable if we approached them.

Can I get involved in your campaign?

We are always delighted to welcome new volunteers! We meet monthly, alternating between in person (weekend) and online (weekday evening) to discuss the initiatives we are currently working on, and there are always activities going on outside if the meetings, so there are lots of cool things you could get involved in. If you are keen to make change happen, then we would love to hear from you, no matter how much or how little campaigning experience you have.

Email contact@endsalaryhistory.co.uk to learn how you can get involved.

You should also sign up to the Fawcett East London mailing list here.