Following the 100th International Women's Day last week, the European Commission has said that a 21 percent wage gap still exists between men and women.
The EC also says that there has been little improvement in the past 15 years, though the rate for the UK, along with Germany and the Netherlands, falls below the EU average of 78 percent.
The Commission suggests the high pay gap in the UK could be attributable to the large proportion of women in part-time employment. Italy’s encouraging pay gap of only 4.9 percent is connected to the small proportion of low or unskilled women in the workforce.
Inés Alberdi, Executive Director of UNIFEM, highlighted the importance of the presence of women in the workforce: “What is powerful and new today is that the corporate community itself reports that gender equality is good for business — advancing innovation, attracting top talent, raising positive consumer and community recognition and improving profits."
According to the most recent reports from the Office for National Statistics, those in professional occupations are subject to the narrowest pay gaps for full-time employees.
The pay gap varies considerably with age, with those in the 40-49 age group subject to the largest gaps with rates of 18.4 percent for full-time workers and 23.7 percent for those employed on a part-time basis.
The Fawcett Society, a UK campaign for equality between women and men, identifies three main reasons for the gender pay gap. Firstly, employers simply do not pay women as much as men for the same job.
Secondly, occupations traditionally held by women offer lower wages, such as nursing. Thirdly, Britain has a culture of long working hours, which hinders women’s involvement in work, given they still carry out most domestic duties, especially those relating to children.
In November a study carried out with the backing of the British Medical Association found that women in the medical profession were earning up to £15,000 less than male counterparts.
The occasion was commemorated by a number of events in Edinburgh. Harriet Lamb, Executive Director of the Fairtrade Foundation, gave the first lecture in an annual series organised by the University of Edinburgh.
The day also marked the launch of the first global ‘Join Me on the Bridge’ campaign, with Edinburgh residents gathering together in solidarity with women from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda, who stood on a bridge linking the countries to call for an end to war.