Closing the gender pay gap by 2020

Women graduating from university in developed markets in 2020 could be the first generation to close the gender pay gap in their professional lifetimes, according to new research from Accenture.

The report – of 28,000 women and men, including undergraduates, in 29 countries – reveals that within decades the pay gap could close, if women take advantage of three career equalisers and if business, government and academia provide critical support.

With these changes, the pay gap in developed markets could close by 2044, shortening the time to pay parity by 36 years. In developing markets, the changes could cut more than 100 years off the time to reach pay parity, achieving it by 2066 instead of 2168.

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Accenture’s research found that, globally, a woman earns an average $100 for every $140 a man earns. Adding to this imbalance is the fact that women are much less likely than men to have paid work (50% and 76%, respectively).

This contributes to a “hidden pay gap” that increases the economic inequities between men and women: for every $100 a woman earns, a man earns $258, the research shows.

The research also identifies several critical factors that affect a woman’s ability to achieve equal pay as early as university.

Female undergraduates in the UK are currently less likely than their male counterparts to choose an area of study that they believe offers high earning potential (27% vs. 41%), have a mentor (41% vs. 58%) or aspire to senior leadership positions (39% vs. 54%).

Additionally, young women lag in adopting new technologies quickly (47% vs. 69%) and in taking coding and computing courses (54% vs. 81%).

The report, which builds on Accenture’s 2016 research on closing the gender gap in the work place, offers three powerful accelerators to help women close the pay gap:

Digital fluency

The extent to which people use digital technologies to connect, learn and work.

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Career strategy

The need for women to aim high, make informed choices, and manage their careers proactively.

Tech immersion

The opportunity to acquire greater technology and stronger digital skills to advance as quickly as men.

Applying these career accelerators, combined with support from business, government and academia, could reduce the pay gap by 35% by 2030, boosting women’s income by $3.9 trillion.

Emma McGuigan, senior managing director at Accenture in the UK and Ireland commented: “Today’s research sends a clear message that more needs to be done to help close the existing pay gap. Specifically, younger women in the UK who are yet to enter the workforce need further support when it comes to developing the right skills and considering the various educational and career options open to them.”

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“Here at Accenture we’re passionate about helping young girls to develop their digital and technology skills and igniting their interest in careers in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). The gender pay gap is an economic and competitive imperative that matters to everyone, and we must all take action to create opportunities for women that will accelerate our journey towards closing that gap.”

“Gender equality is an essential element of an inclusive workplace, and this extends to pay,” said Pierre Nanterme, Accenture’s chairman and CEO. “Business, government and academia all have an important role to play in closing the gap. Collaboration among these organizations is key to providing the right opportunities, environments and role models to lead the way for change.”


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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...

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