The proportion of high-earners that are female has not changed in the last four years, despite initiatives to reduce the gender pay gap, according to research from law firm Clyde & Co.
Just over a quarter (27%) of taxpayers declaring an income between £31,786 and £150,000 are female, a percentage that remains unchanged since 2011/12, according to HMRC data.
In 2014/15, 1,210,000 women were classed as higher earners, along with 3,260,000 men. While the overall number of women has increased the number of higher earning men also increased proportionally, so the percentage has remained at 27%.
The data precedes mandatory pay gap reporting due to come into effect in spring 2016. This will require firms with 250 employees or more to publish information about the difference between the average pay of their male and female employees.
Heidi Watson, employment partner at Clyde & Co, said that these initiatives should be welcomed. "If this regulation does one thing it will highlight issues that we already know about – lack of women in senior roles, more women in part-time work, more women in low-paying sectors – so that governments and individual companies will be further fuelled to tackle them," she said.
"Employers can get ahead of the game by focusing on their diversity programmes, voluntarily giving more information about these initiatives to put their figures in context. The key will be demonstrating a positive picture to clients and potential recruits, and ideally showing a reduction in the gap over time."
Charles Urquhart, employment partner at Clyde & Co, expressed concern that the legislation is not clear on what information is required. "We don't know yet precisely what figures employers will have to publish, but if it's simply a matter of reporting an average of men and women's basic pay and bonuses every three years it won't tell us much more than we already know," he said.
"For gender pay reporting to be valuable a like for like comparison across all levels within an organisation, from the CEO to unskilled levels of employee, would be needed. This would be much more useful than 'average' data across a business, but it would create far more of a burden on employers, which the government will no doubt be wanting to avoid."
He added that the current system of advising targets rather than enforcing quotas might not be the most effective strategy. "The UK government has not been interested in introducing quotas, with the 'target' system at director level in FTSE 350 companies reporting success,” he said. “But will this drive the change the government clearly wants, and will we see numbers of women increasing in senior management roles beneath board level?"