The gender pay gap

The gender pay gap is a current topic in the press, and high on the Government’s agenda. The EC defines the gender pay gap as “the average difference between men's and women's aggregate hourly earnings” but how this is actually presented can cause some misinterpretation. Claims made such as “female academics earn an average of £8,611 less per year than male academics” can fuel the confusion surrounding this issue.

Our workforce is, overall, 49% female and 51% male. Along with most other Universities, there are different proportions in different parts of the workforce.

For example, in our academic faculties the workforce is 43% female, whereas our professional services are 59% female. The important issue about the gender pay gap is that it measures two things:

  • the pay people (by gender) get for doing the same equivalent job
  • the distribution of those people (by gender) within the organisation

Equal pay for equal work

At the University we use a grading system to measure equal work.

Our lowest grade (Grade 1) includes porters and cleaners where the difference in salary between men and women at this grade is 0.03%, with women earning slightly more than men.

Much of the comment on the pay gap between men and women has focused on the parts of our workforce engaged in education and research. At the lowest grade (Research Assistant), women earn on average 0.46% more than men. At the highest grade (Professor, excluding senior managers), women earn on average 4.7% more than men.

Overall the difference between male and female salaries is small and we can justifiably state that we offer equal pay for equal work.

Gender distribution

The more difficult challenge we face as a University is the distribution of the numbers of men and women at different grades. In our most junior five grades, 60% are female; in our most senior five grades, 47% are female. It is the lower rate of progression of women to the most senior grades which causes the distortion we see in the gender pay gap.

This pattern is typical in Universities with a strong engineering and science base. However the University has been working with the Athena SWAN programme for some years, and what was originally a programme about women in engineering and science has now expanded to cover the humanities, business and social sciences. The University, and many of our Departments now have bronze awards, and some are aiming for silver.