Women’s Week: Suffolk’s ‘unacceptable’ gender pay gap is wider than national average

Campaigners say more needs to be done to redress the pay gap. Picture: JOE GIDDENS/PA WIRE

Campaigners say more needs to be done to redress the pay gap. Picture: JOE GIDDENS/PA WIRE - Credit: PA

Working women in Suffolk earn on average 21% less an hour than men, latest figures reveal.

Nelleke van Helfteren, of Ipswich Citizens Advice, says employers try to hide gender discrimination.

Nelleke van Helfteren, of Ipswich Citizens Advice, says employers try to hide gender discrimination. Picture: LUCY TAYLOR - Credit: Lucy Taylor

The county’s median gender pay gap was wider than the national average of 18.4% in 2017, according to the Office for National Statistics.

The wage disparity has improved slightly in Suffolk since 2016, when it stood at 22.6%.

Achieving equal pay and opportunities is an objective of Women’s Equality Party Suffolk.

Chairwoman Nikki Packham said: “It is shocking and unacceptable that 47 years since the Equal Pay Act women are still earning less than men for no good reason.


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“Suffolk’s gender pay gap is even worse than the national average and we know that for some black, Asian and minority ethnic women this gap is even wider.

Amanda Ankin, of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, says the pay gap is 'disappointing'. Picture: SUFFOLK

Amanda Ankin, of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, says the pay gap is 'disappointing'. Picture: SUFFOLK CHAMBER OF COMMERCE - Credit: Archant

“Eliminating the gap will take another 62 years at the current rate of progress, which is even more unacceptable.”

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Ms Packham said men dominated the most senior and lucrative roles because women often scarified their careers for the sake of family.

Shelly Darwin, equality officer for the trade union Suffolk Unite Community, said: “It’s inequality on display. It’s something that we all need to take a stand against.

“I think lots of factors are in play in terms of opportunities and in terms of stereotypical roles for women and pressures in the home and child care responsibilities.”

Nelleke van Helfteren, deputy manager at Ipswich Citizens Advice, said the main employment issues women sought help for were maternity discrimination, sham redundancies post-maternity leave, sexual harassment in the workplace, zero hour contracts and affordable child care.

She said women were also disproportionately affected by austerity, and added women were more likely to be family carers and agency workers than men.

“We think employers continue to cloud the issue around discrimination and they hide the discrimination women experience under the guise of redundancy, under the guise of reducing hours, under the guise of changing working patterns,” Ms van Helfteren added.

Amanda Ankin, operations director at Suffolk Chamber of Commerce: “These figures are not surprising – but they are disappointing. The reasons for this persistent pay gap are many and interlocking – but the solutions are comparatively easy to deliver and Suffolk Chamber, through our Suffolk Business Women group and through our wider networks, is working hard to support businesses to achieve this.

“Firstly, it is vital that businesses set themselves voluntary targets and clear ways of achieving those targets to encourage the recruitment and promotion of women at all levels and to create a better pipeline of men and women as emerging leaders.

“Secondly, firms need to look at their internal cultures to ensure that women feel comfortable and confident about putting themselves forward for promotion, as there is evidence that women frequently feel more reluctant than men about doing this for a wide range of reasons, many of which can easily be addressed through career development programmes and mentoring opportunities for all staff.

“Thirdly, it’s important to frame this issue as one about encouraging not just flexible but agile working practices that allow women and men to better balance careers and other responsibilities.”

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