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What do men and women really think about the gender pay gap?

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In our latest employment monitor we found that almost one in two respondents believe that men are paid more than women. We often wonder how much the person sitting next to us really makes, and it’s a natural tendency for us to formulate inflations of their actual salary. 

But delving a little deeper we found that this statistic could be more than just our paranoia regarding pay cheques, and could reveal something more about gender in the Irish workplace.


There’s a lot of research attesting to the gender imbalance in organisations, both in terms of managerial presence as well as annual salaries. A Credit Suisse report that surveyed 3,000 companies across 40 countries found that only 17.5% of top financial and strategic jobs were held by women, and incidentally only 3.9% of them had female CEOs.

Perception of gender in the workplace

Our employment monitor reveals that there’s also an imbalance in terms of perception too. When we broke down the responses by gender we found that there was a difference in how both men and women see the gender question. Nearly 60% of female respondents believed that men are paid more for the same work, this compared to 33% of male respondents. Nearly double the women believe that there is a gender pay gap. This is an important perception to note. If such a significant number of people believe that they are not paid their worth, it brings with it a minefield of issues for motivation and morale. What leads them to believe this and why is it so different to the opinions of their male counterparts?

It could be something to do with the reality that men are less in tune with the issues facing women. For example, the trade-offs that many women have to face when it comes to career and family. The difference in how men and women see the gender pay gap is important because it impacts the likelihood of opening dialogues for change.

An equal workplace?

In our survey we also asked about equal treatment at work. There is a sense that men continue to be treated more favourably within the workplace. 71% of men believed that both genders are treated equally and that no one gender receives favourable treatment.  18% of men believed that men were treated more fairly. This compared to 46% of women who felt that men received more favourable treatment. Our findings are in line with many studies that show that women, often mothers, are not on equal footing in the office.

Studies show that mothers are seen as less competent and committed at work, that they are not seen as good candidates to hire or promote. On the other hand, fatherhood is valued as a characteristic, signalling greater work commitment and stability. This perception then manifests itself in salaries. Females see their wages decrease by about 4% for each child they have, whereas a man’s pay check will go up by 6%.

The gender pay gap

While this research makes for harsh reading it goes to show the power of perception and reinforces the sense that there’s still a long way to go when it comes to levelling the playing field. In Ireland, the gender pay gap is widening. In 2012, women were paid 12.6% less than men. This increased to nearly 14% in 2015. Ireland fairs well against the UK (19% pay gap) and the US (21%) but comes up short compared to Germany (8.6%) and Poland (6%).

Gender balance brings with it many benefits. Companies with more female representation at managerial level note higher returns on equity, higher valuations and better stock performance. Clearly, closing the gap is good business but to start seeing concrete change we’re going to have to work on bringing mind-sets in line with reality.

Find out more on our findings on gender and other topics:

Employment Monitor