Holyrood Committee launches gender pay gap inquiry


Could closing the gender pay gap boost the Scottish economy? This will be a key question for the Scottish Parliament’s Economy, Fair Work and Jobs Committee as it launches its inquiry into the impact of equal pay.

The committee’s gender pay gap inquiry comes as current research shows:

  • Progress on closing the pay gap has been so slow that on current trends it will not be eradicated until 2069 – or 99 years after the 1970 Equal Pay Act*, with women working full-time in Scotland still earning on average 6.2% less than men.** www
  • The largest pay gaps are found in skilled trades and management, with finance and insurance the industrial sector with the highest pay gap, at 29.9%. This is a sector where 51% of employees are women.***
  • According to UK government figures, equalising women’s productivity could add almost £600bn to the economy, while if the 2.2 million women who wanted to work could find suitable jobs, 10% could be added to the size of the economy by 2030.

Convener of the Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Committee, Gordon Lindhurst MSP said:

“Equal pay is still not a reality for many working people in Scotland. An important question for the committee will be: is this holding back Scotland’s economic growth? 

“The committee will examine whether addressing the gender pay gap could positively affect Scotland’s business performance. We want to know:  what is the effect of unequal pay on the Scottish public sector? And crucially, what action is required from the Scottish Government to tackle the issue?”

Mr Lindhurst continued:

“The Committee wants to consider the economic value of equal pay and understand the impact of the gender pay gap on the Scottish economy.  Vital to this inquiry will be the direct experiences of people ‘on the ground’- the businesses and organisations that are working to close the gender pay gap, and individuals who struggle to access equal pay. Their expertise and experiences will guide and lead our work, telling us what measures are being taken – and what still needs to happen - to create a level playing field.”

The deadline for submitting evidence to the Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Committee is March 10 2017. The Committee will produce a report on its findings on the gender pay gap, including policy recommendations, in June.

For further details on making a submission visit: http://www.parliament.scot/genderpaygap 

*According to an analysis by consultants Deloitte.

** According to SPICe’s gender pay gap report: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/103275.aspx

***As above



Case studies

Tricia Nelson

Tricia Nelson

Tricia Nelson a partner with EY (formerly Ernst & Young) a leading professional services firm and accounting organisation.

When I joined EY I was a senior manager, with partner ambitions. I was 40 and had just had my second child. Joining at that stage of my career, I was unsure whether my new employers would live up to my career progression expectations. However, within four years I was made partner. I believe that would not have been possible without such a positive and supportive working environment at EY. I feel like I can have open and honest conversations about my career and gender parity at the firm.  

“Over 25 years, I’ve worked in a range of industries, including advertising and newspapers. Back then, did I think about the gender pay gap? Possibly not. The data wasn’t available to back up any suspicions that things weren’t as fair as they should be in the workplace. My younger self would have probably lacked confidence to have that conversation with an employer. If I felt there wasn’t a level playing field I might have attributed it to the fact that I didn’t go to university.

“But I certainly became more aware of parity in the workplace, when I became a leader in the business; then I really gained insight. In interview scenarios, for example, I have seen men be more vocal and confident on the topic of pay.

“I now work for a firm where a lot of work is done pre- and post-maternity leave, to reduce any unconscious bias about future career aspirations and flexible working patterns. Whether it’s full-time, part-time or an informal flexible working arrangement, it is ensured that our people are supported with the needs of the individual, their team, their clients and the business taken into account. The same is true for all parents, men, women, and adoptive parents.

“Our client base is diverse, and it is important we reflect that as an organisation. At EY we value difference in all its forms to ensure we offer the widest range of perspectives. The metrics speak for themselves. A more inclusive team is more effective, and ultimately more profitable.

“We need to see more women empowered to have conversations about gender parity. If I can empower women to do that, then I feel I’m fulfilling an important part of my job.”


Jeanette Forbes

Jeanette Forbes

Jeanette Forbes is Chief Executive and founder of PCL Group, an Aberdeen-based cabling and IT service provider to five sectors: offshore, marine, commercial, industrial and renewable. At the beginning of her career, Jeanette did the same job and was identically qualified to her male colleagues. Her then-employer refused to pay Jeanette the same rate.

“On the night of the Piper Alpha disaster, I was on duty in the Communications Centre at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary. The enormity of the tragedy had a huge impact on me. I made the decision there and then that I wanted to make a positive difference to the oil and gas industry. 

“I secured a job, working for an oil and gas company. Office personnel noticed I had a knack for computers, and I became the go-to IT person, doing exactly the same job as my male colleague. But while he earned £26K, I earned the company’s office administrator’s rate of £12K. I asked my bosses for equal pay. They said no, because I didn’t have the same qualifications.  So I studied part-time at night-school for a degree. My day began at 4am, so I could juggle study, work and childcare, and still be home at a reasonable time for my family.

“Finally, armed with my qualification, and six years’ experience, I asked for equal pay, and was turned down flat. My bosses told me I had the qualifications but I did not have the experience of doing the job with the certificate.

“Did it come down to the fact that in their eyes I was not good enough to earn £26K because I was a woman? I believe hard work, commitment and loyalty deserves recognition. So I resigned. I was headhunted by the oil and gas industry, and my career really took off.  As I progressed through my career, I finally earned the 26K.

“My experience happened in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. These barriers are coming down but the gender pay gap is still very much a live issue and still exists. I am a board-member for a number of companies. Often I am the only woman at each board meeting. I distinctly remember on one occasion I was handed the pen and paper to take notes. Even at that level, it is automatically assumed women should take the admin role.  Why is this?

“After years of campaigning and legislation, why is the gender pay gap still on the agenda?  There are women entering the workforce who have not yet developed the confidence to ask for equal pay. If women like me don’t do something about the gender pay gap issue now, we risk failing the next generation of girls or women in the workforce. I for one do not want to be held accountable for that.”

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