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Female executives earn the same as men for the first time - but equal pay for all is still 100 years away, according to CMI

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Female executives are earning as much as their male counterparts for the first time since its records began, albeit only at junior executive level, according to groundbreaking research released today from the Chartered Management Institute (CMI).

Earning an average salary of £21,969, female junior executives in the UK are currently being paid marginally more (£602) than male executives at the same level, whose average salary is £21,367.

But the average figures across the whole sample of 34,158 UK executives surveyed by XpertHR on behalf of CMI suggest equal pay for male and female executives across all seniority levels could be as far as 100 years away. Men continue to be paid more on average than women doing the same jobs (£42,441 compared to £31,895), revealing a gender pay gap of £10,546.

Despite the fact that salaries for female executives as a whole are currently increasing faster than those of their male counterparts (female salaries increased by 2.4% during the 12 months between February 2010 to February 2011, a 0.3% higher rate of increase than for male salaries), if male and female salaries continued to increase at current rates, it would be 2109 - 98 years - before the average salary for female executives catches up with that of their male peers.

At £10,546, this year's pay gap is slightly bigger than the gap of £10,031 which was revealed in the same survey, this time in 2010. In addition, salary increases for both male and female executives have fallen since last year's Survey - in the 2010 survey male salaries were found to have risen by 2.3% and female salaries by 2.8%, whereas this year's figures are 2.1% and 2.4% respectively. The difference between female and male pay rises has, therefore, narrowed year-on-year.

CMI's director of policy and research, Petra Wilton, said: "While CMI is delighted that junior female executives have caught up with males at the same level, this year's Salary Survey demonstrates, yet again, that businesses are contributing to the persistent gender pay gap and alienating top female employees by continuing to pay men and women unequally. This kind of bad management is damaging UK businesses and must be addressed.

"It is the responsibility of every executive - both female and male, organisation and the Government to help bring about change. Diversity shouldn't be seen as something that has to be accommodated, but something that must be celebrated. Imposing mandatory quotas and forcing organisations to reveal salaries is not the solution. We need the Government to scrutinise organisational pay, demand more transparency from companies on pay bandings and publicly expose organisations found guilty of fuelling the gender pay gap. They and employers must ensure that women are nurtured and supported at work, and can access development opportunities to help them on their way to senior management positions. We want to see mentoring and sponsorship programmes in more businesses and industries and more female executives pushing their employers to formalise and publicise equal pay and opportunity policies."

Max Benson, co-founder of Everywoman, an organisation which seeks to raise the status of women in the economic community, added: "This is how it should be, of course. Women should be getting equal pay when they're doing the same job as men and it is wonderful to see this actually happening. Even if women start at the same pay level at the beginning of their careers, they can't automatically assume that will be the case as they progress. Will they be on the same rates of pay in the more senior positions when they are outnumbered by men?

"There is a degree of responsibility which lies with women in developing themselves and their careers. If you look ahead to where you want to be in 15 years time, it's essential to start building your networks from day one to help you get there. Find a mentor and build a network of support because these people will be essential in helping women fulfil their career ambitions."

The research also revealed redundancy hit men and women equally hard between February 2010 and February 2011, with 2.2% of male executives and the same percentage of female executives losing their jobs. For female executives, this is an encouraging shift from last year when 3% of men were made redundant compared to 4.5% of women.

The figures show women at more senior levels are being adversely affected by redundancy, however; at function head level, women are almost twice as likely as men to have been made redundant (2.7% of male function heads were made redundant compared to 4.9% of female function heads), while almost five times as many female directors as male directors lost their jobs (0.6% of men compared to 2.9% of women).