Three key skills could close the gender pay gap by 2044

08 March 2017 4 min. read

The generation of women that graduates from university in 2020, in developed economies, may be the first generation that will see equal wages relative to men during their professional careers.

Global consulting firm Accenture has carried out research on wage equality. More than 28,000 men and women, including students, from 29 countries* participated in the study**. The sample included equal representation of men and women of three generations (Millennials, Gen X and Baby Boomers), from all staff levels at companies of different sizes.

According to the report, titled 'Getting to Equal in 2017, the pay gap can be reduced if women use three skills effectively during their careers, and if they are supported by the industry, government and academia. By applying the key skills, the pay gap may, in developed markets, reach parity by 2044, 36 years faster than without such a focus. In emerging markets, the skills can shorten the time to parity by over a hundred years, whereby equality is reached in 2066 rather than in 2168, according to the researchers.

Time to close the pay gap

The research found that women are paid $100 on average compared to the $140 on average paid to men. Additionally, women are less likely to work than men (50% vs. 76%), which contributes to the ‘invisible pay gap’ which again exacerbates the economic inequality between men and women.

"The future workforce must consist of an equal labour pool. The gender gap is an economic and crucial competitive factor that affects everyone. We must therefore take steps to create opportunities for women, whereby the gap can be quickly closed," said Manon van Beek, Country Managing Director at Accenture in the Netherlands.

Woman are much less likely than men to have paid work

The researchers indicate that there are a number of critical factors which influence the opportunities for women in relation to receiving equal pay. Dutch female students are in fact less likely to choose, compared to male students, a field of study wherein there is a potential to earn large salaries (11% vs. 21%), they are less likely to have a mentor (30% vs. 50%) or seek to a senior management position (14% vs. 29%). Moreover, it appears that young women use less new technologies (21% vs. 50%) and are less inclined to follow coding and computer science courses (45% vs. 78%).

Actions and attributes that affect work and pay

Three skills

The ‘2017 Getting to Equal’ report, which follows a previous report from 2016, emphasises three skills that are part of the solution to bridge the pay gap. The first is 'digital fluency', the extent to which people use digital technologies to connect, learn and work. Further, "set goals", the need for women to aim high, to make informed choices and proactively manage their career. And, finally, technological literacy, the ability to develop digital and tech skills, just as quickly as men.

By applying these skills, combined with support from industry, government and academia, the wage gap could already be reduced by 35% by 2030, the researchers write.

The impact of Digital Fluency - Cereer Strategy and Tech Immersion

“Gender equality is an essential part of a workplace, this includes wages," says Pierre Nanterme, Accenture's chairman and CEO. "Industry, government and academia all have to play an important role in bridging the gap. The cooperation between these organisations is the key to facilitating the right opportunities, environment and role models that the lead the way towards change.”

* Countries included in the study are Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greater China (including Hong Kong and Taiwan), India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and the United States. Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

** The survey data was analysed using econometric models to identify the drivers of equal pay and career-promoting factors, and combined with the published data on education, employment, leadership and research by the World Bank, OECD, World Economic Forum and the UN, then measuring the impact of possible measures to improve equality. The pay gap calculations are based on the economic model of Accenture, taking into account the lower percentage of women than men in paid employment.