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The knock on effect of the gender pay gap

30th April 2019

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I wasn’t the only woman who, when the gender pay gap audit was reported in April, looked around the room and thought, ‘how much more are these men getting paid than me?’ Naively I thought that gender pay gap reporting would be a turning point. I knew there were other pay gaps that needed the same rigorous review and airtime – race and disability being two - and the worst of pay gaps where gender, race and disability intersect needed a huge spotlight. But what I hadn’t stopped to consider was the domino effect that pay gaps can have.

The pay gap widens as women progress through their career

On average, women and men now earn the same when they are in their 20s, but then, as they reach their 40’s, women’s salaries plateau or drop. By age 40, women earn 13% less than men, and by their 50s, 16% less. This gap, which widens throughout their lifetime means that women invest less, save less and have much, much smaller pensions.

A separate analysis by the Young Women’s Trust found that over the course of a lifetime women earn £223,000 less than men. This means, according to the Chartered Insurance Institute, that on average, women are retiring with a pension pot worth five times less than what the average man can expect.

Pay gaps aren’t the causal effect of employers paying women less than men for the same work (that would be illegal), they can result from women taking career breaks to raise children and by women not being offered the same opportunities at the top of industries as men - only 22% of the top quartile of Google UK is women, while only 29% of partners at the UK’s largest law firms are women.

The investment gap

Knowing that women are earning less, it should come as no surprise to learn that they’re investing less too. YouGov found that 52% of women in the UK have never held an investment product vs. 37% of men – not just because they have less spare cash to invest but also because often women feel they don’t understand how to invest.

If you were going to invest for the first time, you would probably want to seek some advice from a professional first. Here is where women find another sticking point - female financial advisers are outnumbered by men six to one. It’s not to say that a woman couldn’t be advised by a man or vice-versa, but that male dominated industries often overlook the particular needs of women, like living longer.

The Chartered Insurance Institute found that a woman entering a care home between the ages of 65 and 74 can expect to stay for four years, at an average cost of £132,000 - that’s nearly twice as much as it would cost for a man.

Women also take more career breaks, they are often the primary carer not only for their children but also their parents with nearly a third of women in their late 50s currently caring for an adult.

The lack of women in the finance industry perpetuates the myth that money is a topic for men and only understood by men. A study by Starling found that 90% of magazine articles targeting women focused on small ways to save money, like cutting back on outgoings or seeking out vouchers and bargains, yet magazines catering for men tend to speak to their readers as if they’re savvy financiers, offering advice on the best tech to use to enhance their investments.

Women are better investors

There is hope though – despite being outnumbered in the industry, professional female fund managers are outperforming male colleagues. And when the financial adviser Hargreaves Lansdown published data on its own clients, it showed that women investing on the platform outperformed their male counterparts by an average of 0.81%; over 30 years that would mean women would end up with a portfolio worth 25% more.

There’s a lot that women can do to reclaim the topic of money for themselves. For those who have never invested, a simple step could be to download an app such as Moneybox, Wealthify or Wealthsimple and start with a £1. And just like that you’re ’an investor’.

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