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Why are professional women from working-class backgrounds paid nearly 40% less than men?

Posted by
Hollie Richardson
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Working class woman

We have a serious gender pay gap problem – this, we all know. And yet, despite repeatedly exposing the issue, new findings around it continue to make us pull our hair out. 

Last month, we shared the news that women with post-graduate degrees still earn less than men without one. Before that, an analysis of gender pay data submissions from companies in the UK with over 250 employees found that fewer than half of them had succeeded in narrowing the gap.

Now, we have been given a new report which proves that social class is another huge factor for women when it comes to the pay gap. 

The State of the Nation 2018-19 Report found that, in professional fields, women from working class backgrounds earn 36% less than men who grew up with parents in professional jobs. It went on to explain that despite education, “class privilege remains entrenched in the workplace”.  

Working class women in office
Social class can dictate a woman’s career and wage

So, let’s break this problem down a bit more to see what’s happening and why.

According to the report, getting into professional occupations is largely dependent on parental occupation. Men and women from professional backgrounds are 80% more likely to get into a professional job than their less privileged peers.

That makes sense, right? If your parents have professional careers, it’s likely that they are financially secure enough to provide a safe home, able to help with school work and are friends with other professionals who might be able to take on young protégées or offer them an internship.

One of the routes for a woman to a better paid job is moving region – young people who moved areas over a four-year period were 12% more likely to experience wage progression than those who stayed. But moving is dependent on background, as those from professional backgrounds are more likely to move, using their resources (Bank of Mum and Dad, professional contacts) to stay ahead.

Again, it makes total sense that people have better job opportunities in big cities such as Manchester and London, but are put off by the increasing rental rates and high cost of living.

Women, says the State of the Nation report, have a “double disadvantage”. In fact, women and those from ethnic minority backgrounds are more likely to experience downward social mobility than their male or white counterparts. Although higher education is said to better their incomes and mobility, women are still likely to earn nearly 40% less – that’s £16,000 - than men from more advantaged backgrounds.

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Basically, it’s looking worse than – or, at least, the same as - ever. This is why social mobility has been described as being a ‘stagnant from birth to work cycle’.

The commission is calling for the government to address these issues, including the need to extend free childcare hours from 15 hours to 30, so that working-class women and those on a low-income can continue to progress in their career after starting a family.

There’s obviously a long way to go, but this report will surely prompt the government into action? 

Images: Getty and Unsplash

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Hollie Richardson

Hollie is a digital writer at Stylist.co.uk, mainly covering the daily news on women’s issues, politics, celebrities and entertainment. She also keeps an ear out for the best podcast episodes to share with readers. Oh, and don’t even get her started on Outlander…

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