Gender pay gap widens amid crippling cost crisis

Exclusive Marketing Week data reveals the gender pay gap is growing, as post-pandemic strain and the cost of living crisis take their toll.

Gender pay gap
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Following three years of Covid-fuelled uncertainty, data suggests rising inflation and cost of living pressures have combined to increase marketing’s gender pay gap.

On average female marketers working full time are paid 16.5% less than their male counterparts, according to the exclusive 2023 Marketing Week Career and Salary Survey. This figure is up from 12.6% in 2022, but thankfully an improvement on the 2021 (23%) and 2020 (28%) survey data.

The exclusive survey of more than 3,000 marketers – 60.1% of whom identify as female – finds a gender pay gap of 18.6% at executive level, with female marketers earning £33,131 on average compared to their male peers at £40,698. The pay gap (18.6%) is the same at senior executive level, with women earning on average £51,401 versus their male counterparts at £63,133.

For junior managers (10.6%), managers (7.2%) and senior managers/department managers (8.1%) the pay gap narrows slightly. However, the gulf between the pay of male and female marketers grows again at marketing director/vice-president level to 12.8%, with women earning on average £96,585 versus their male peers at £110,801.

According to the analysis, the best paid industry for female marketers is consumer electronics at £73,652 on average, with agencies/consultancies offering the lowest take home pay (£52,404). On average, male marketers are best paid in the education sector (£84,276) and take home the smallest wage in telecommunications/IT (£52,259).

To put the Marketing Week statistics into context, data published by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) in October puts the UK’s national gender pay gap for full-time employees at 8.3% in April 2022, up from 7.7% in April 2021.

The ONS calculates the gender pay gap as the difference between average hourly earnings (excluding overtime) of men and women as a proportion of men’s average hourly earnings (excluding overtime). The figure is the measure across all jobs in the UK, rather than the difference in pay between men and women for doing the same job.

Marketing must get better at supporting women’s careers

According to the ONS data, women working as full-time ‘marketing associate professionals’ earn 3% less than their male peers in terms of median gross hourly earnings (excluding overtime). On the same median gross hourly basis, the government’s pay gap for full-time ‘marketing and commercial managers’ was 8.4% in 2022, rising to 13.4% for ‘marketing, sales and advertising directors’.

The ONS is, however, continuing to caution that estimates for 2020 and 2021 are subject to a greater degree of uncertainty given the decision in March 2020 to suspend pay gap reporting for the 2019/2020 year.

From Covid to the cost crisis

The sad fact is gender pay parity may not be achieved globally for another 132 years, according to the World Economic Forum. The data, published in July, suggests global crises such as Covid and the rising cost of living have intensified the risk of gender pay parity “backsliding”.

Gender equality charity The Fawcett Society claims the gender pay gap is closing at a “glacial pace”, which it argues is especially concerning given women are “at the sharp end” of the inflation crisis.

The charity puts the UK’s overall gender pay gap at 11.3%, meaning its Equal Pay Day in 2022 was 20 November, the day in the year where women effectively – on average – stop earning relative to men.

According to Fawcett Society statistics, if the gender pay gap were to close more than half (53%) of women would use the additional money to turn on heating and lights more often, while 48% believe their mental health would improve.

Career & Salary Survey 2023The charity’s research, published in November, finds more than two-thirds of women (68%) have struggled to pay their household bills over the past six months, rising to 80% for black women and those in minority groups.

A lack of flexibility among employers is also taking its toll. Over a third (35%) of women told the Fawcett Society they want to work but are prevented by a lack of flexible working options and affordable childcare.

The vast majority (85%) of female marketers responding to Marketing Week’s 2023 Career and Salary Survey say flexible/hybrid working is either an important or very important job characteristic for them. However, the survey finds 12.4% of women in marketing had a request for hybrid working turned down in 2022.

Of those women unable to access the flexibility they need, over a third (35.7%) say their employer wants them in the office full time, 27.4% report their business has a one-size-fits-all policy and 25.5% say their employer doesn’t believe remote working is as effective.

In a bid to close the gender pay gap, the Fawcett Society is calling on the government to lower the reporting threshold to companies with 100 employees (currently reporting only applies to businesses with 250 employees and over) and require organisations to publish action plans outlining how they will tackle their pay gap.

The charity wants to ban questions about salary history during the recruitment process and ensure salary bands are displayed on job ads. The Fawcett Society is also pushing to make it a legal requirement for companies to offer flexible working as a default and advertise jobs with flexibility built in.

This mission is in line with the aims of WACL, the body for women in advertising and communications leadership. The organisation’s ‘Flexible First’ campaign is calling on employers to adopt flexible working from day one of employment and advertise all jobs as flexible in a bid to accelerate the resolution of the gender pay gap.

Pay parity remains at the top of the agenda globally. With the theme of #EmbraceEquity, next month’s International Women’s Day (8 March) will encompass a push for pay transparency. Yet despite being in the international spotlight, all the available data suggests substantial work is still required before businesses even get close to closing the gender pay gap.

*The average salaries for the Career and Salary Survey are calculated from full-time (35+ hours a week) respondents (87.1% of the total sample) providing their basic annual salary, excluding any additional benefits.

Click here to read the full analysis of marketing salaries cut by gender and seniority