Call to action
The caution here, however, is not to see the dramatically smaller gender pay gap as evidence that we’ve ‘cracked’ the equal pay challenge. Rather, it is a call to action to understand the nature of the real problem— a disproportionate lack of opportunities for women and under-representation of female talent in high-paying industries, senior functions, and leadership positions. Closing the gender pay gap is about equal access to recruitment, development, and promotions to empower more women to move into the senior-most levels of organisations.
The Korn Ferry Hay Group study focused on numerous countries such as the UK, Germany, Australia, and South Africa. While the gender pay gaps varied from country to country, the same trend was evident in every case. The “headline” rate of overall gender pay comparisons (ranging roughly from 15% to 30%) narrowed dramatically with successive comparisons at: the same level; same level and company; and same level, company, and function. The true gender gap ranged from 0.1% in Russia and 0.8% in the UK, to 3.3% in South Africa and 3.8% in Czech Republic, all in favour of men.
The analysis did not look at the U.S. gender pay gap because such data are not collected in the United States, nor in Canada or China. Nonetheless, from what we know about the dearth of women in senior leadership in Corporate America, the study findings are consistent with workplace issues for women in the U.S. For example, women account for 45 percent of the work force in S&P 500 companies; yet they occupy 25 percent of executive/senior-level and manager positions and only 4 percent of CEO positions at S&P 500 companies.
Across multiple industries, Korn Ferry Hay Group data show that women make up 40% of the workforce for clerical jobs, but account for only 27% of management and 17% of executive-level positions. This analysis proves that women are still vastly underrepresented in the best-paying areas of the employment market—the senior-most roles, at the best-paying companies, and in the highest-paying industries where men predominate.
The problem globally is not just seniority. There is a lack of women at every level in the highest-paying industries (for example, oil & gas, technology, and life sciences). Men dominate in highly paid functions and sectors, holdings 85% of technical jobs in 11 of the world’s largest tech companies. Even in lower-paying sectors where women dominate, such as hospitality and tourism, men still hold the vast majority of management and executive roles, which are the highest-paid jobs in any industry.