When It Comes to Wage Equality, Britain Means Business

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron plans to force companies to reveal bonuses for their employees.
Nicky Morgan, Britain's minister for women and equalities, addresses delegates on the third day of the annual Conservative Party conference in Manchester, England, on Oct. 6. (Photo: Oli Scarff/Getty Images)
Oct 25, 2015· 2 MIN READ
Jennifer Swann is TakePart’s culture and lifestyle reporter.

In an essay that went viral earlier this month, actor Jennifer Lawrence pledged to be a better negotiator after leaked Sony emails revealed she was paid less than her male costars for their work in American Hustle.

The comments had celebrities from Bradley Cooper to Jeremy Renner talking, but the gender wage gap isn’t just a Hollywood issue—and it’s far from being merely an American one. Across the pond, U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron wants to ensure it won’t take another corporate hack to expose pay inequality.

On Sunday, Cameron and Women and Equalities Minister Nicky Morgan announced that the government plans to force large companies to publish information about employee bonuses. Applicable to companies that employ more than 250 people, the new regulation is intended to encourage transparency and help narrow the gender wage gap. Cameron, who said the measure was a “true opportunity” for equality, also plans to work with employers to eliminate all-male boards among England’s 350 top-performing companies listed on the London Stock Exchange.

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“From the opportunities women are given in school to the ability to move up the executive pipeline, we are determined to tackle the barriers to women achieving their all,” Morgan said in a statement, noting that earlier this year, the government hit its 2011 target of having women comprise 25 percent of executive boards.

In the U.K., women earn on average 80 percent of men’s earnings, marking the lowest overall gender pay gap in the country’s history, according to a government analysis. The U.K. figure mirrors the gap in the United States, where women earn an average of 78 percent of what their male counterparts earn, with a much larger gap for Latina and African American women, according to White House data. The statistics are also consistent around the world: Women are concentrated in low-wage jobs and earn an average of between 70 and 90 percent of men’s total earnings, the United Nations reported this week.

Britain’s latest move comes just over three months after Cameron declared his aim to end the country’s gender wage gap in a generation. The conservative leader’s strategy includes bumping up the National Living Wage from £7.20 to £9 by 2020; further boosting the proportion of women on executive boards; and requiring every company with at least 250 employees to publish the gap between the earnings of their male and female employees. Under the U.K.’s Equality Act of 2010, the government already reserves the right to require businesses to publish information about pay disparity between men and women, but up until now, the practice has been only loosely enforced.

Last month, the government polled employers and employees to assess their views on when and where the data should be published. Although the results of the consultation have not yet been announced, the U.K. parliament plans to outline a list of final recommendations for women on boards next week.

“Business has made huge amounts of progress already in recent years,” Morgan said in a statement. “But it should appall us all that, 100 years on from the suffragette movement, we still don’t have gender equality in every aspect of our society.”