Gender Equality – the pay gap and beyond ShareThis


As part of the 2018 ESRC Festival of Social Science, Understanding Society hosted a timely debate to discuss the unfolding momentum on gender equality.

The introduction of mandatory gender pay reporting for England, Scotland and Wales sparked wide scale debate about the performance of well recognised employers and gendered selection into occupations and sectors. Much less has been the conversation about the interplay of factors driving the gender pay gap and how best to reduce it. Whilst the gap has narrowed from 19% in 2007 to 13.4% in 2015, nearly 8 in the 10 organisations with more than 250 employees have a pay gap in favour of men.

The risks of wide scale employer reporting but limited understanding of factors driving the gender pay gap, and well-intentioned but scattered initiatives, are real. For many women, what employers can do – from flexible working and shared parental leave to targeted progression schemes and changing recruitment practices – cannot be isolated from care provision, household dynamics and fathers’ experiences. Is the nature of employment or pay the major challenge when it comes to promoting gender equality? How can “gender equality by design” be underpinned by an employer, individual and household perspective in order to magnify action and connect policy? What impact will the roll-out of Universal Credit have for women on low income and for wider income inequality in society, including the gender pay gap over the lifecourse?

Understanding Society, the UK Household Longitudinal Study, hosted a timely debate to discuss the unfolding momentum on gender equality. New evidence using Understanding Society reveals the impact of part time working on pay, how parenthood shapes gender role attitudes towards employment, and the effects of divorce on gender differences in housing futures. There was also a poster session enabling delegates to engage with researchers on specific topics.

Who was the event for?

The event promoted a cross-sectoral conversation on a major area of growing economic and social concern. It brought together policy makers, employer, HR professionals, trade associations, trade unions, educationalists, local authorities, campaigners, care organisations and think tanks working towards gender equality.

Launch of Insights 2019

The event saw the launch of the Understanding Society Insights 2019 report. This annual publication highlights policy relevant findings from longitudinal research that uses Understanding Society’s rich data and provides commentary from leading policy thinkers. This year’s publication profiles longitudinal evidence covering three themes: gender inequality; environment; and living standards in later life.

Outline programme

12.00 to 12.30:

Registration and lunch

12.30 to 12.40:

Welcome and introduction

Chair: David Walker, Chair of US Governing Board

12.40 to 13.10:

Headline findings from Understanding Society

Professor Susan Harkness, Understanding Society Topic Champion on Social Policy

Monica Costa Dias, Associate Director, Institute for Fiscal Studies Research and Economist, Centre for Economics and Finance, University of Porto

13.10 to 14.15:

Panel Session

How can we best tackle the gender pay gap and ‘motherhood penalty’? How can employers make a much bigger difference? Can equality at work be achieved without equality in the home? What does a gender perspective on social security reveal, and what are the effects of Universal Credit for women on low income?

Fran Bennett, active member of Women’s Budget Group and Senior Research and Teaching Fellow, Department of Social Policy and Intervention, University of Oxford

Monica Costa Dias, Associate Director, Institute for Fiscal Studies

Sam Smethers, Director, Fawcett Society

Helen Wright, Founder, employment solutions

14.15 to 15.00:

Networking, Poster Sessions and tea/coffee