From education to employment

Half of women in Birmingham feel underpaid – is this the reason behind the Council’s equal pay bill?

office team at work discussing

51% of female professionals based in the West Midlands feel underpaid at work – 10% more than male professionals in the region, and 8% more than female professionals based in London.

Almost a quarter of women in the region have reported receiving zero pay increase in the past 12 months, despite having negotiated for higher pay – compared to less than a fifth of men.

The new findings are part of a recent survey into Diversity & Inclusion in the Workplace by specialist recruitment company Robert Walters.

The survey highlights how female professionals in white-collar jobs – especially those based in the West Midlands, as well as the North & East of England – are bearing the brunt of tightening company purses and inflation-related cuts.

Habiba Khatoon, Director of Robert Walters West Midlands comments:

“We are all too aware of the regional pay gap between the regions and London, but our research attests to the fact that there is a gendered regional pay gap.

“With recent news of local council bankruptcies, as well as companies cutting back due to the cost of living and unstable economy – it is even more important that we are made aware of the professionals who are most overlooked in terms of pay.”

Birmingham Council’s equal pay problem

Last month, Birmingham City Council was forced to issue a Section 114 notice – effectively declaring itself bankrupt – bought about by a £760m unpaid equal pay claims.

The claim was brought by 174 of the council’s former employees, where all but four were women.

According to Robert Walters research, only 7% of female managers with five years of experience based in the West Midlands earn above £55K – whilst 52% of male managers in London & 24% of male managers in the West Midlands (with the same years of experience behind them) earn over this amount.

Women in the West Midlands unsuccessful in negotiations

Unsurprising, pay increases are front of mind for female professionals in the region – with 44% stating that they have negotiated for higher pay in the past year, in the face of increasing inflation and rising cost of living.

However nearly a quarter (22%) did not receive any form of pay rise post negotiation – a further third (30%) received less than half of what they asked for.

Out of the total number of West Midlands-based professionals who negotiated for a higher salary – 10% more male (26%) than female (16%) professionals received the full amount that they had negotiated for.

Habiba adds: “Even when taking matters into their own hands and attempting to negotiate for a higher salary, less than a fifth of women in the West Midlands seem to be receiving the pay rise that they believe they deserve.  

“This is even more worrying considering less than half are negotiating in the first place – so those who are actually receiving a rise are a minority of a minority. There is a real concern that female workers in the West Midlands could be falling behind in terms of pay.”

Employers not prioritising female professionals

Amongst female professionals in England – those based in the West Midlands are also one of the most likely to cite ‘not believing their employer would offer them a raise’ as a core deterrent for not negotiating for a pay increase.

Top 5 RegionsFemale professionals who do not think their employer would offer them a pay rise
North East23%
West Midlands21%
South East21%
East of England20%
North West19%

Pay satisfaction at an all-time low

Female professionals based in the North West (58%) and West Midlands (55%) report the highest level of dissatisfaction in pay – with a 10% drop in pay satisfaction from females based in the South West (45%) and a 15% drop from male professionals based in London (42%).

Top 5 RegionsFemale professionals who feel underpaidMale professionals who feel underpaid
North West55%47%
Yorkshire & The Humber53%39%
East Midlands52%40%
West Midlands51%41%
East of England51%41%

Habiba comments: “The discrepancy in pay satisfaction is clear. Women in all of the above regions have at least 10% gap in pay satisfaction compared to their male counterparts.

“The longer women feel under-appreciated in the workforce the more we will start to see dropping levels of morale amongst female professionals, as well as declining output and productivity – with potential for this to  lead to a higher turnover of the female workforce, something employers simply cannot afford in a candidate short market.”

Low rates of pay aggravate further dissatisfaction

High-rates of pay dissatisfaction aren’t surprising considering almost half (46%) of West Midlands-based female (white-collar) professionals earn up to £28k – compared to just 29% of their male colleagues.

According to Statista, the median full-time earnings for the average professional in the UK sit at around £35k – so it is no wonder that female professionals in the region are experiencing higher levels of dissatisfaction – as the majority have a pay-packet which falls behind the national average.

The gap even more pronounced at the senior end of the market, where over two thirds of male managers in the region earn £35k+, with this just sitting at the halfway line for their female counterparts (52%).

Habiba comments: “Considering the chasm between the earnings of male and female professionals at different levels  in the West Midlands – it is unsurprising that a bonus or pay-rise can be a lifeline for female professionals in this region.”

Coral Bamgboye – Head of Equity, Diversity & Inclusion at Robert Walters – shares her top tips for companies on how to close the gender pay gap:

  • Pay Equity Audits: Conduct regular audits to assess and address any disparities in pay across your organisation. Focusing on the intersections of region and gender for similar positions, levels of experience and years at the company.
  • Review and Adjust: Continuously review your compensation strategies and adjust them as needed to address changing regional and gender pay gap challenges. Robert Walters Salary Survey is a useful tool that can help you benchmark your regional pay packages.
  • Inclusive Incentives and Bonus Programs: Make sure all of your staff have equal opportunities to achieve bonuses or paybumps – for example, having different regional targets and benchmarks helps to ensure the playing field is level.
  • Skills and Training: Invest in skills development and training for your staff in regions where pay is lowest, making sure that these sessions are open and inclusive to all employees. In the sessions, focus on the skills they can hone to help them reach a higher pay bracket.

Related Articles