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EmploymentThe North West climbs to seventh in PwC’s Women in Work Index

The North West climbs to seventh in PwC’s Women in Work Index

The North West has moved from eighth to seventh place in the Women in Work Index.

This report by PwC assesses progress made towards achieving gender equality at work across 33 Organisation for Economic Cooperation Development (OECD) countries as well as the UK’s 12 regions and nations.

Data shows that although the North West’s gender pay gap has increased year on year from 12.9 per cent in 2021 to 13.3 per cent in 2022, the region is still ahead of the UK’s overall pay gap of 14.5 per cent, as well as the average OECD pay gap of 13.5 per cent.

In the regional Index for female participation rate, the North West ranks ninth. This is the proportion of women of working age (15 to 64) who either have a job or are seeking work, and eighth when measured on the gap in the male and female labour force participation rates.

Despite the UK slipping four places to 17th on the OECD Index – the largest annual fall in rankings experienced by any OECD country this year – nine of the UK’s 12 nations and regions improved their scores on the UK regional Index compared with last year, with Scotland topping the list for the first time.

Susie Holmes, place & purpose lead and financial services leader for the North, (pictured) said: “The Women in Work index is a crucial piece of research and, as a woman working and living in the North, it’s fantastic to see that the North West is making progress in the rankings.

“It’s always been difficult for the North as a region to close the gap with other areas of the UK due to the prominence of typically male dominated industries, such as manufacturing and STEM fields, but there are a number of incredible initiatives across the North, like She Leads for Legacy and TechSheCan that are doing fantastic work in bringing businesses and policy makers together, and highlighting the issues facing gender pay disparity.

“We’re extremely proud to support important programmes like these, alongside our own gender inclusion networks in the North, to help future proof careers for women.”

The ‘gender pay penalty’ in the UK

The report finds that, even after accounting for a range of pay-determining factors, women still earn almost a tenth less than men on average in the UK.

This ‘gender pay penalty’ worsens with age, with women between the ages of 46 and 65 experiencing more than twice the gender pay penalty than that of women between 16 and 30 years.

A woman entering the workforce faces a pay penalty of around 5.2 per cent on average but this widens to nearly 13 per cent as her career unfolds. The report highlights the ‘motherhood penalty’, with women taking on an unequal share of childcare responsibilities, as a key driver.

This is compounded by men often having more time available to perform so-called ‘greedy jobs’, which demand unpredictable and longer hours and tend to be more highly paid.

In addition, women between 46 and 65 are also likely to be impacted by health conditions and the menopause, which may require them to take more time off work, potentially affecting their career progression.

Married women and those in higher income brackets also face a hit to their earnings when compared with men with similar personal and professional backgrounds – for example, people living in the same area and working in the same industry.

Ian Elliott, chief people officer at PwC UK, said: “Our analysis is a timely reminder that employers have to look at all the factors that contribute to pay gaps. Alongside transparent and robust gender pay gap reporting, it’s also vital that health and wellbeing resources are accessible and the workplace is an empowering place for employees experiencing the menopause and other health conditions.”

If women no longer faced a gender pay penalty, the total increase in women’s earnings in the UK could be up to £55 billion every year. Moreover, it could also encourage more women to join or rejoin the workforce – a 5 per cent increase in the total number of women in employment could boost UK GDP by up to £125 billion every year

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