Which sector has the worst gender pay gap?

Businesses need to tackle the wider reasons for inequality in their sector, rather than using them as an excuse.

by Adam Gale
Last Updated: 05 Apr 2018

Mandatory gender pay reporting has revealed in embarrassing detail just how unequal the world of work still is. The median salary for women is 9.7% less than for men, while 78% of employers pay their male staff more than their women.

There are well-explored reasons for this, many of which relate to wider societal issues – attitudes to motherhood, fewer women doing STEM subjects at university, unconscious bias etc.

The danger here is that these reasons turn into excuses, something you shrug about while saying you wish the world was different and doing nothing to change it.

Nowhere is this danger more acute than in the sectors with the biggest gender pay gaps. But looked at another way, these present the greatest opportunities to make a difference.

It’s probably not something they can do on their own, but if enough employers try to address the big picture causes of inequality, they could change the norms for their industry rather than just for their business. (For some examples, take a look at MT's Agents of Change, showcasing some of the men championing gender equality at work.)

Whether they actually do that, we’ll wait to wait and see. That’s the great thing about mandatory reporting – there’s nowhere to hide.


The sectors with the worst gender pay gap

1. Financial and insurance activities: 25.9% mean; 22.1% median

2. Construction: 21.6% mean; 22.1% median

3. Mining and quarrying: 21.1% mean; 19.6% median

4. Arts, entertainment and recreation: 19.6% mean; 3.7% median

5. Information and communication: 19.4% mean; 18% median

The sectors with the best gender pay gap

1. Water supply, sewerage, waste management and remediation activities: 5.5% mean; 6.9% median

2. Public administration and defence; compulsory social security: 8.2% mean; 7.6% median

3. Accommodation and food services: 8.4% mean; 1% median

4. Human health and social work activities: 9.8% mean; 1.7% median  

5. Transportation and storage: 10.3% mean; 6.7% median

Statistics courtesy of StaffMetrix. For more detail, see its Gender Pay Gap site.

Image credit: andriano.cz/Shutterstock


Come to our Inspiring Women in Business conference. Edinburgh. 15th May: Get tips and advice from Britain's most powerful businesswomen. Hear from Skyscanner, Clydesdale Bank, CBI Scotland, Atkins and more. Guest speaker: Dame Cilla Snowball.

Come to our Young Women in Business conference. London. 27th June: Super-charge your career with practical masterclasses on everything from presentation skills to tackling budgets. Guest speaker: Dame Helena Morrissey.


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