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The gender pay gap in the UK won't close for more than half a century based on current salary progression, according to new research by Deloitte.

The accountancy firm said the hourly pay gap between men and women of 9.4%, or about £1.30, was narrowing by just 2.5p a year.

The report, Women in STEM, said that although the gender pay gap is closing steadily, it's forecast that at the current rate of convergence, equal pay will not be achieved until 2069.

The research highlights how this inequality starts at the beginning of working life, as women graduates are earning less than their male counterparts across many job sectors.

Deloitte said women are disproportionately more likely to go into jobs in industries where pay levels are lower, such as those in healthcare and teaching.

In contrast, only 14% of women choose occupations in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) in the UK, despite the increasing number of top-paid jobs calling for an ability in these subjects.

Even though more young women than men go to university, men are much more inclined to study technical subjects. The top two most popular university courses by subject area for women are education and subjects allied to medicine.

In contrast, the most popular university courses for men are business and administrative studies and engineering and technology, according to Deloitte.

In employment today, more women than men work in occupations where cognitive and social skills are very important but where technical skills, including STEM skills, are not as important. While these ‘softer’ skills will be increasingly in demand in the age of smart machines, they also need to be part of a more balanced skills portfolio.

Emma Codd, managing partner for talent, Deloitte, said that traditional gender roles are to blame for the lack women choosing STEM jobs.

She said: “Traditional gender roles, where women are perceived to be responsible for running the household and men for providing sustenance for the family, have been around for centuries. It is little wonder that these ingrained cultural norms are proving difficult to shift, despite significant advances in the role of women over the last 100 years in the world of work.

“Technology has played an important role in the progress towards achieving gender equality. It has helped to raise the participation of women in the workplace. Also, many new jobs have been created as a consequence of the introduction of new technology in industry – jobs that demand greater cognitive and social skills rather than just technical skills like programming or physical abilities like strength.”

Ms Codd added: “It is in these new roles and many others across the economy that women are as capable as men.”

As of October, private sector businesses with 250 employees or more will need to start thinking about disclosing details of this controversial subject, ensuring to take a snapshot of gender pay data in April 2017 and report on it by April 2018.

Interim details on the requirement have recently been published and draft regulations contain the specific areas which will need to be reported on such as: the difference in mean and median pay between male and female employees; the difference in mean bonus pay between male and female employees; the proportion of male and female relevant employees who received bonus pay during the period of 12 months preceding the relevant date; and the numbers of male and female employees employed in quartile pay bands.

Alan Price, Peninsula Employment Law and HR director said: “Although we still await final confirmation of the procedures, one thing is certain, if you’re likely to be called on to provide this information, it makes sense to start preparing now.”

Mr Price suggests employers can do this by:

  • Checking your data processes– can you report and analyse your gender pay data under current systems?
  • Conducting an informal pay audit to include annual salaries defined by staff role and gender.
  • Look for suspected pay gaps – consider whether or not there are lawful justifications for any differences, and deal with obvious disparities.
  • Review starting salaries – men often negotiate higher starting salaries, so monitor the salaries of new joiners.