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The gender gap has shrunk again - and has been all but eliminated for younger workers.

27/11/14

The financial sector, like so many others, has been faced with challenges in helping women to progress in their careers, with women under-represented in higher positions in companies, whether as managers or on boards.

Be this due to structural issues like poor provisions for maternity, childcare and flexible working, outright sexism from male colleagues or low expectations among women themselves that they can shatter the glass ceiling, the gap has been one that has brought widespread concern. One obvious consequence is that average incomes remain lower for women.

While women themselves have an obvious reason to be discontent, any objective assessment will suggest that the failure to ensure talented women succeed as often as they should means lots of potential is being wasted - with significant consequences for businesses and the economy as a whole.

However, if pay is a guide, the situation is improving.The latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) data has revealed the pay gap is now 9.4 per cent, a still significant figure but the lowest since records began in 1997. Perhaps most significantly, the gap in pay is minimal for staff aged under 40.

Moreover, the ONS noted the gulf has been shrinking fairly consistently. In 1997 it was 17.4 per cent and has fallen in most years, even if there was a rise between 2012 and 2013, leaving the figure at ten per cent last year.

For companies seeking to hire talented staff in accountancy or tax advisory roles, it may be very wise to consider the skills of female candidates. The evidence that women are increasingly doing better in the workforce may itself act as a sign that, given fair and equal treatment, they can excel in roles traditionally considered to be 'male'.

Commenting on the situation, minister for women and equalities Nicky Morgan said: “Women are vital to our economic growth and we need to make the most of their skills at every age. We have more women in work than ever before, but businesses need to value diversity in their workforce and pay attention to the role of women in their organisations.”

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