Closing the gender pay gap: how does accountancy fare under gender pay scrutiny

aat comment

We recently looked at why women are still underrepresented at the most senior levels of the finance profession.

Since then there has been a renewed focus on the issue of gender pay disparities in all industries. It has been suggested that women in the UK are effectively working for free for at least an hour every day, earning on average 22% less than their male counterparts, according to research from the CMI and XpertHR.

The findings come just over a month after the UK government announced plans to force large firms to disclose their data on gender pay gaps amongst their staff. David Cameron appears to be putting the spotlight on working women, calling on businesses to set their own gender pay targets, and emphasising that the introduction of the National Minimum Wage announced in the recent budget will also play an important role to raise the wages of women.

Gender pay in accounting 

How does accountancy fare under gender pay scrutiny? The 2015 ICAEW salary survey found that the pay gap has in fact widened amongst ICAEW Chartered Accountants by 5.4% since 2014. Women over 45 have seen their salaries fall by £6,500 as men’s increased by £4,200.

In response to the government’s proposals, Deloitte have pre-emptively released their statistics on gender pay ahead of the plans to force companies to declare, revealing that they pay their female staff 17.8% less (with the gap narrowing to 1.5% within the same job grade). PwC released their own information last year, stating an average gap of 15%, which dropped to 2.5% when adjusted for job grades and locations.

Women need more talk and more action

It’s not just gender pay auditing alone that is going to close the gap. The problem still lies with the lack of women at senior levels. Without a representative share, says David Sproul, senior partner and chief executive at Deloitte, “the average pay will never truly equalise”. We are in essence back to square one, looking at the institutional barriers and lack of role models that stop women rising through the ranks in the same manner as their male colleagues.

The Big Four are leading the way to take action and promote more women into senior levels of their business. Deloitte promoted a record number of women, almost a third, to partner level. EY promoted a similar proportion, while 23% of new PwC partners were women. Deloitte has also announced a return-to-work scheme for former employees, providing paid internships for women who have been out of work for between three and six years, in order to help overcome the barriers many women experience when taking time out to have children.

Equal representation is the gateway to equal pay. Accountancy firms need to not only be honest about their gender pay figures, they also need to take an honest look at their own cultures and practices to close the gender pay gap once and for all.

Kayleigh Ziolo is a freelance journalist and writer based in Ireland.

Related articles