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Gender pay gap won't close until 2069 unless more girls study STEM

There is a significantly smaller gender pay gap for starting salaries in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) roles

It will be more than half a century before the gender pay gap closes in the UK if current salary progression rates continue, according to research from Deloitte.

Progress on closing the pay gap has been so slow that at the current pace it will not be eradicated until 2069, with the hourly pay gap between men and women of 9.4% (about £1.30) narrowing by just two-and-a-half pence a year.

The research, based on data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), found that there is a pay gap from the beginning of people's careers. In all but one of 10 popular occupations for graduates men start out on higher average salaries than women. In all 10 the gap widens over time.

The report identified lessons for policymakers in the significantly smaller gap in starting salaries between men and women who have studied science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects.

Analysing pay gaps by degree qualifications – rather than by occupation – the research found there was no difference in average starting salary between male and female graduates of engineering and technology, and for subjects allied to medicine and dentistry. It called for more to be done to encourage girls to study STEM subjects.

A separate report by non-profit association for the technology industry CompTIA has found young women still lack awareness about career opportunities in the technology sector.

The CompTIA research, based on a survey and focus groups of young women between the ages of 10 and 17, found that of girls who have not considered an IT career, 69% attributed this to not knowing what opportunities are available. More than half (53%) said additional information about career options would encourage them to consider a job in IT.

The research found that the average young girl's interest in a tech career dwindles over time. Although 27% reported considering a career in technology at middle school, by high school this figure had dropped to 18%.

Boys were found to be more likely to begin using mobile devices at an earlier age (at five-years-old or younger) than girls (11% compared with 5%). Boys were also slightly more likely to explore the inner workings of tech devices out of curiosity (36% compared with 30% of girls).

Todd Thibodeaux, president and CEO of CompTIA, explained that achieving greater gender diversity in the tech industry requires major changes in the ways girls interact with and learn about technology. “It will take a concerted, collaborative effort and long-term commitment by parents, role models, teachers, counsellors and, most importantly, industry mentors, who can convey their passion about working in tech to future generations,” he said.

Tracy Pound, managing director of Maximity and a member of CompTIA’s board of directors, said that much more must be done to spread awareness of how rewarding a career in STEM can be.

“With the predicted expansion of the technology industry there are potentially hundreds of thousands of jobs to be filled in the next few years, and we desperately need girls and women to step up and take some of these roles,” she said. “It’s an exciting industry to be part of; there’s always something new and fascinating to investigate and make use of. Anyone who wants an interesting career should take a look at what the industry has to offer – it’s kept me busy and engaged for more than 30 years.”