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Civil Service

Why we can’t afford to wait for gender parity

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Civil Service Leaders
Leslie Evans head shot
Leslie Evans, Scottish Government Permanent Secretary

According to the World Economic Forum, it will take 117 years – until 2133 – before gender pay parity is achieved globally. I don’t know about you, but I think that’s too long to wait!

Tuesday 8 March is International Women’s Day, a day to recognise and celebrate the achievements of women. This year, the theme is a ‘pledge for parity’ – calling on individuals to take action and help women around the world realise their economic potential. I welcome the attention this day brings to women’s equality, but we need to maintain momentum all year round.

Gap reducing

The good news is, in both Scotland and the UK as a whole, the gender pay gap is reducing for younger age groups. And with a gender-balanced Scottish Cabinet – a UK first – and the second-highest female employment rate in the EU, Scotland is showing real leadership.

The Scottish Government has gender parity overall among our staff and we’re working to ensure greater balance across all grades, with targeted development and support for women with potential to progress to SCS level. And at just 0.6%, Scotland has the smallest gender pay gap in the UK for top public sector jobs.

Despite this progress, inequality persists. Women experience higher poverty rates than men, and are more likely to be in part-time and low-paid jobs. For example, 23.7% of women in Scotland earn less than the Scottish Living Wage. While the pay gap is improving for some groups, it remains persistent overall in Scotland – currently 7.3% for full-time employees and 16.8% when part-time employees are included. And there is still evidence of discrimination in Scotland’s workplaces that contribute towards the pay gap.  

'Inclusive growth'

Yet achieving greater equality and boosting sustainable growth are mutually supportive – and a fairer and more equal society is also one that’s more prosperous and economically successful. This principle of ‘inclusive growth’ is backed by an international body of evidence.

Professor Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel-prize-winner and former chief economist of the World Bank, has recognised Scotland’s leadership in this area. As he put it: “Tackling inequality is the foremost challenge that many governments face. Scotland’s Economic Strategy leads the way in identifying the challenges and provides a strong vision for change.”

I recently met with a young civil servant from Leeds who won a competition at Edinburgh's Civil Service Live last year to spend time with her chosen mentor. She chose me! It was fascinating to hear her experience as a young woman joining the Civil Service. I was heartened by her justified optimism for her future career. And I hope that she will see significant progress in gender equality and the economic benefits this brings.

You can show your commitment to gender parity by making a pledge on the International Women's Day website.

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  1. Comment by Lola posted on

    The problem is not the gap between male and female, it's the gap between the higher and lower grades of the civil service. There is too much snobbery from the higher grades. I don't mean to be overly critical, but I am just telling it as it is.

  2. Comment by Bill posted on

    How about just paying a set rate for a set job, that way there can be no gender bias, or bias of any kind?

    If there has to be a sliding scale for a job, have it enshrined in contracts what is required to earn the pay at that level. For example, if pay is to progress with time served, then state at end of year one, your salary will increase to £xxxxx, at end of year two £xxxxx, taking into account, grade changes at the same time.

  3. Comment by David Widlake posted on

    This might be of interest. Even the wording of an employment ad can be a crucial factor whether a job goes to a woman or a man – as women feel less inclined to respond to ads containing words linked with male stereotypes. This is one of the findings of a research project by a university in Germany which studied how leaders are selected and assessed.

    260 test subjects were shown fictional employment ads. If the advertisement described a large number of traits associated with men, the women found it less appealing and were less inclined to apply. Such traits include “assertive”, “independent”, “aggressive” and “analytical”. Women found words like “dedicated”, “responsible”, “conscientious” and “sociable” more appealing.

    You can read the press release here:

    and the full results here:

  4. Comment by another Terry posted on

    Not sure why the comments on the very existence of a gender pay gap. Equal pay cases come to the Courts frequently enough and those with merit are successful. It's an observed phenomenon. A common example includes jobs predominantly staffed by females or part timers being undervalued compared with similar or equivalent jobs predominantly staff by males or full-time within the same organisation. I would agree that Civil Service messages about equal pay are undermined by its own pay policies, after all ,its part-time workers are less likely to receive performance pay and more likely to be deemed "not met" under current PMR, and no concrete effort has been made to remedy this in any material way. The growing disparity in pay and conditions within grades must impact on staff engagement.

  5. Comment by RLM posted on

    I know this is timed for international womens' day but this sort of article is - as many others have said - entirely unhelpful at a time when we have serious pay inequality as a result of our progression being taken away. Pay progression wasn't 'a pay rise for doing nothing' it was an acknowledgement that upon promotion you started off less experienced than your colleagues but over time would come up to the same level of competence and therefore pay. Now the musical chairs have paused and many of us face the situation of being paid thousands of pounds less to do the same job as colleagues who come PMR time we are measured against with absolutely no chance of catching up. Even if I outperform my colleagues I still get paid less.

    And that's not even considering the inequality of an EO in DWP, the Home Office and MOD being measured to the same competency framework but have hugely different pay spans.

    How can it be legal - for any reason - to pay people different amounts to do a job graded at the same level ?

  6. Comment by JSW posted on

    The pay gap is alive and well in DWP, I earn thousands of pounds a year less than my male colleagues on the same grade due as Andrew says to the fact they were here before me. However, I also see men who apply and get the next grade through sheer ambition rather than ability. I also hear comments from male members of staff about not wanting to employ part-time or term-time staff, because they see it as more difficult to manage. Anyone should be able to choose part-time or term-time regardles of sex and managers should rise to the challenge and not use it as an excuse to continue holding certain people back. Some of the best Civil Servants i have seen work part-time.

  7. Comment by Mike KB posted on

    I concur with C, Andrew and Jonathon. Articles like this do nothing for moral when there is still a huge inequality between within the same department, at the same grade and doing exactly the same job - the difference in pay between colleagues is in the order of thousands irrespective of the gender. This editorial is trying to amplify the disparity between male and females of the same status – let’s get down to the basic facts that the system is already unfair and rotten to the core.

  8. Comment by Susan Annett posted on

    As has already been said we need to rectify the pay disparity between people of the same grade, doing the same job but with salaries differing by thousands of pounds. Lets have a conversation about that disparity. In fact let's talk about ALL pay disparity, not just one aspect of it.

  9. Comment by Freckle posted on

    As others have already mentioned there are bigger pay gaps to be worried about than those based on gender. The fact that people of the same sex are on different terms and conditions and getting different pay while doing identical jobs is very unfair.

  10. Comment by Charlotte Smith posted on

    I have to agree with the comments already highlighted over pay issues. At the moment the Civil Service is in breach of the Equal Paqy Act in that an AO/Band B in one department is paid more than the same grade in another department and who both have the same degree of responsibility! This is unfair and SHOULD be addressed!

    However in considering International Women's Day, we should be thinking on a more global basis. Take the example of Masala who was gunned down by the Taliban as she was speaking for all female children of her age denied the opportunity to attend school and learn. It is a fundamental human right to be allowed an education. Women have as much right to this as men. As Masala herself said, it only takes one teacher, one pen and one book to make a difference to women's lives.

    We need to think of Women around the world who have very low income, poor job prospects and little or no education. There is still much work that needs to be done in this troubled world of ours before we can truly "celebrate" International Women's Day.

  11. Comment by Alan posted on

    The issue with the gender pay gap is that when you look into the reasons and account for them the gap narrows to pretty much 0. Taking all average earnings of full time males, and all average earnings of full time females and comparing them is not useful unless it takes account of actual hours worked (full time is anythign over 30), actual role differences and lifestyle choices. Global statistics on the "pay gap" do not compare like for like, they call a 30 hour a week paediatrician and a 40 hour a week heart surgeon the same thing and state that there is a gender based disparity when the attached salaries do not match, when it is in fact an hours and job based disparity. There does not appear to be any credible economist that supports the idea of there being a problem to be solved here. As someone with an economics background it is concerning to continually see this myth being perpetuated, particularly when in every role I have been in in the civil service has had a regimented pay grade system wth no evidence of a different rate for men or women. I advise anyone with any real interest in this to look beyond the headline figures and see how they have been arrived at. The reality in the western world is that if you do the same job, have the same experience and work the same hours you will be paid the same, but if you work an average of 7% hours less and do a different job don't be surprised if your annual salary is less. Any attempt to solve a problem that doesn't actually exist will lead only to an actual pay gap in the opposite direction from the current myth.

  12. Comment by Sally D posted on

    Reading the other (male) comments, I realise that most have them have missed the point. And Andrew DWP your attitude is exactly why we still have sexism in this country - "harping on about female equality" - really?

    • Replies to Sally D>

      Comment by Jonathan Murray posted on

      I also think many may have missed the point I was making.
      DWP employs more staff than any other UK Civil Service department. Also more than 60% of DWPs work force are women, this figure rises to more than 70% between the grades of AA to EO which are the grades that make up the bulk of the Civil Service as a whole.
      Further to this DWP is one of the lowest (though not necessarily the lowest) paid UK Civil Service departments.
      With these figures in mind, even if the other departments have the same proportion of women working for them. Then the UK Civil Service is actually causing pay disparity between men and women, not rectifying the issue.

  13. Comment by Michael posted on

    Andrew is correct - I too am in the same position of receiving thousands less than many of my colleagues - many of them female simply due to timing of my own advancement relative to theirs. I've said it before, but I'll say it again, to pay different rates for the same job must be illegal. I back-up this statement with reference to the case of the Birmingham Council dinner ladies who were paid less than those in other council functions such as refuse collection and road maintenance despite being graded the same. They won their case through the courts based on their work being of equal value. Why then am I sitting here at the bottom of my pay scale surrounded by others (of both genders) on the top of theirs? I am far more qualified than some. I guess being a male in my 50s I have no rights and no voice. My union is silent on the matter.

  14. Comment by Paul posted on

    Women work fewer hours than men - they can work more IF they want.
    Woman don't study/work STEM fields as much as men - they can study/work in them IF they want.
    Fewer woman work away from home - they can work away from home IF they want.
    Fewer woman work in dangerous jobs - they can do these dangerous jobs IF they want.

    Where is the evidence that a man and woman doing the same job are paid different rates per hour? There are none. If an employer could do this women would be a highly sought after employee, due to the cheaper costs to the business. The facts do not support any such thing as the gender pay gap in this country.

    The only place I know of where people are paid different rates, per hour, for the same job is within the Civil Service. I know males and females that are the same grade as me, doing the same job as me, in the same department as me and some are paid more and others are paid less than me. How's we put time and effort into sorting out OUR wage inequality, which is real unlike this gender pay gap in the UK nonsense?

    • Replies to Paul>

      Comment by S posted on

      "Women work fewer hours than men - they can work more IF they want.
      Woman don't study/work STEM fields as much as men - they can study/work in them IF they want.
      Fewer woman work away from home - they can work away from home IF they want.
      Fewer woman work in dangerous jobs - they can do these dangerous jobs IF they want."

      how about:

      *Women work fewer hours than men because they shoulder the burden of unpaid child and elder care - they can work more hours IF men take up the slack of child and elder care and reduce their hours accordingly.
      *Women can study and work in STEM fields, but face substantially more cultural barriers than men in accessing, remaining in, being taken seriously in, as men, and often have to work twice as hard to be given half the recognition.
      *Fewer women work away from home - see point one. Childcare and eldercare. If men took up more of the burden of this, more women could travel for work.
      * Dangerous jobs - women face unconscious and conscious bias in even applying for these roles due to the stereotype of us being more nurturing, less adventurous, and also the presumption that we should not put ourselves at risk if we have a family (a presumption not applied to men in dangerous jobs).

      Don't be so simplistic as to assume the gender pay gap is just about "rates per hour for the same job". That got blown out of the water when the law was changed to recognise equal pay for equal work (not identical work) in the 1970s. The gender pay gap is very real but it is about access to opportunities and what skills are classed as valuable vs what skills are devalued - or even expected to be given for free.

      • Replies to S>

        Comment by Mark Mavin posted on

        How about giving Fathers equal rights under Family Law or indeed any rights at all
        How about not automatically making the mother the primary carer
        How about giving fathers the same paternity rights as maternity
        Surely this would give parents the choice on who should go back to work? it's not about 'shouldering the responsibility'
        How about giving men greater opportunity in the more traditionally viewed female work roles: NHS, teaching, Civil Service (CPS 66% female, DWP 70% to EO grade) Social Care, Retail. Instead of continually mentioning lack of women in STEM how about we include everyone in this big equality drive.
        The article mentions a new female civil servant being mentored by the writer and her perceptions of the Civil Service as her career progresses. I think it would be interesting to hear a young man's perception - that is of course if we actually recruit young men. I am of course being flippant in my last comment but surely to have pay equality, we have to have genuine social equality for everyone not just for women first.

  15. Comment by Andrew DWP posted on

    From my own admittedly limited view of Civil Service pay, the pay gap is alive and well. I'm male, and paid thousands of pounds a year less than my female colleagues for doing the same job.

    Its really just because of when they joined, and were around when pay progression actually existed, and nothing to do with a persons gender.

    It should be one rate of pay per grade, and all the harping on about female equality just confuses the pay issue. From what I've seen many women here choose to work part time, term time long after the children have grown up and moved out, just becuse they prefer the time away from the office.

    • Replies to Andrew DWP>

      Comment by Andy S posted on

      You are quite right Andy. There should be a rate of pay for the job, irrespective of gender, sexual orientation, disability etc. The civil service appears to be working towards this by keeping all new entrants and newly promoted colleagues on the minimum for the grade and waiting for the rest to leave.

      As for choosing to work part time "long after children have grown up" this choice is open to male colleagues too, should they decide to work part time for this reason.

      • Replies to Andy S>

        Comment by Alan posted on

        "As for choosing to work part time "long after children have grown up" this choice is open to male colleagues too, should they decide to work part time for this reason."

        Of course Andy but were they to then complain that they weren't being paid the same salary as their full time colleagues we would probably look at that fact first before assuming it is some form of discrimination or a bias against them

    • Replies to Andrew DWP>

      Comment by Ricardo posted on

      "Harping on"

      I think your language speaks for itself here.

    • Replies to Andrew DWP>

      Comment by Moosey posted on

      i agree, its about the inequalities in the actual pay system, not gender based. There is no progression and no way of getting to be on an equal playing field to your colleagues.

  16. Comment by Stew posted on

    In regard to matters of parity and equality, a statistic about one party is meaningless without a similar statistic for the other: That "23.7% of women in Scotland earn less than the Scottish Living Wage" is a social problem; but it isn't a gender equality issue unless this figure is significantly greater or lower than the figure for men.

  17. Comment by Jonathan Murray posted on

    An interesting article from Leslie Evans on this topic, and congratulations to the Scottish Government for its gender equality achievements.
    However it does highlight something that has been on the minds of DWP staff for some years now. There is significant pay inequality/disparity between the various departments of the Civil Service with DWP being one of the lower paid departments, particularly in the lower grades. DWP is also the largest of the Civil Service departments with regards to the numbers of its employees and that over half of DWPs workforce are women (again particularly at the lower grades). Therefore isn't the UK Civil Service in it self, as an employer an inhibitor to gender pay parity? Perhaps the UK goverment should get its own house in order on the issue of pay parity and equality, before trying to resolve the issues of other workplaces?

  18. Comment by C posted on

    Talking about global gender pay parity is rather pointless when there is no pay progression and I have to come to work everyday knowing that I get paid thousands less than the people sat next to me doing the same job, to the same standard and there is no method for me to come to be paid the same as those around me.

    • Replies to C>

      Comment by Moosey posted on

      Here here! I AM paid thousands less than my (mostly male) colleagues due to being transferred into the CS from an at risk post in the regions, on the same wage. Will i ever see a pay rise to address this? I'm guessing not...

    • Replies to C>

      Comment by Philco posted on

      Amen to that!
      I am stuck on the lowest pay band and my two Lady colleagues are on the top band for my grade.
      I think it will take me decades, with the 0.4% extra pay to reach the same parity?