The gender pay gap is now 35% for managers over 40

Forget the glass ceiling. The problem is the 'glass pyramid', and it may be getting steeper.

by Adam Gale
Last Updated: 22 Mar 2016

For all the effort and good intentions among businesses to eliminate the gender pay gap, it seems the problem is in some cases actually getting worse.  The difference in salaries for managers over 40 is now 35%, which according to research from the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) is higher than it was a decade ago.

The extensive survey of 72,000 managers found the pay gap rises from 6% for 26-35 year olds to 20% in the 36-45 category and 35% for 46-60 year olds, in what CMI chief executive Ann Francke calls the ‘glass pyramid’.

‘The walls close in with every step up, and you’re likely to slip down the pecking order when it comes to pay,’ Francke said in evidence before a parliamentary select committee today, adding that the boardroom targets set by the Davies Review are far from enough to solve the problem.

This is sadly not an enormous shock, of course, though if the gap has increased then that is rather more jarring. Differences in pay and even prospects among older workers could be explained by ‘legacy issues’ as well as persistent systemic biases, after all – i.e. women who entered the workforce in 1990 were discriminated against, which held back their careers and therefore still limits their salaries today. If it’s getting worse within age categories, however, that’s clearly a different story.

The CMI found that an 8% pay gap for 25-29 year old women in 2005 had translated into a 20% pay gap for 36-45 year olds this year, implying that the gap had widened for the same cohort as they aged. Just as bad, the pay gap in 2005 was only 16% for 45-49 year olds and 26% for 50-54 year olds, compared to 35% for the combined age group now. Not a good trend. 

Some would argue it’s a moot point anyway. Whether the problem isn’t going away or is just going away very slowly as discriminated-against generations age, it still means doing what we’re doing now isn’t good enough.    

Francke for one backs clearer pay reporting and more training to combat unconscious bias, pointing in particular to issues around how managers treat women returning from maternity leave.  

‘They are not doing anyone a favour by offering softer roles for mothers. Capability must be judged on time served; it is simply a question of whether you are up to the job. If you are, you must be paid the going rate. Anything else is simply discrimination,’ she said.

Hard to argue with that really. 

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