Opinion  

Enough of scaremongering headlines about the gender pay gap

Chloe Cheung

Chloe Cheung

It has become fairly common to hear about the gender pay gap and its sister, the gender pension gap, in the media.

When it comes to full-time employees aged 40 and over for example, the gender pay gap was more than 10.9 per cent in the UK, according to official figures released in October.

More news followed from Royal London last month that the menopause could leave a dent in a woman’s retirement savings to the tune of £63,000, if they were to reduce their working hours at the age of 50.

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To add to the narrative, research out this month from Legal & General found that women are more vulnerable to the cost of living crisis.

Working women are on average 14 days away from the breadline if they lose their income. In comparison, the average working man would be able to meet their household costs for 28 days.

Scaremongering or inspiring?

Besides the bold and somewhat scaremongering headlines that articles about such disparities can generate, there is presumably a beneficial intent to inform and inspire readers to do what they can to address the inequalities.

But as the spotlight grows brighter on the general differences in financial resilience between men and women, it can be easy to be weary of such disheartening headlines.

There is also a risk that readers become immune to headlines warning that women do not earn as much as men, and that this inequality is likely to continue into retirement. After all, it is unlikely to be news to many.

It was therefore a refreshing surprise earlier this year to come across research that found that women start investing at the average age of 32, compared to men who typically start investing at the age of 35.

Fidelity International found more than half of female investors (54 per cent) consider themselves to be successful, with 46 per cent managing their investments independently.

In this way, an alternative approach to addressing financial disparities between men and women is to inspire people to take action, rather than scaring them into it.

For example, separate research for Fidelity International published in June found that women started investing because a third (36 per cent) wanted more money in retirement. Three in 10 (31 per cent) wanted to make more money overall, and a similar proportion (27 per cent) felt their savings were not generating enough returns.

  Credit: Luke MacGregor/Bloomberg

Of course, it may be because of gender pay and pension gaps that women want more money in retirement, and to make more overall. But highlighting the positive action that women can take to address any shortfalls in current and future income is more inspiring than creating a sense of gloom.

Then again, perhaps it depends on whether you’re a glass half full or half empty kind of person.

There is a similarity here to client case studies and testimonials, which marketing specialists in the financial advice industry encourage to attract new clients.