A "Mind The Gap" sign in the tube station. Photo: Marianna Massey/Getty Images.

Gender-based pay inequality is still a major problem in the UK’s arts sector, according to the findings of the 2018 ArtsPay survey, commissioned by the advocacy group Arts Professional.

A lack of career progression is the biggest contributor to disparity, according to the survey, with women only half as likely as men to reach senior roles by their mid 30s, and earning less than men as their careers progress.

The group collected more than 2,600 responses from an online survey in September and October across three categories: full-time workers, part-time and freelance workers, and business owners and managers. The findings showed that only 15 percent of women under the age of 35 occupy senior roles, compared to 31 percent of men. And, on average, women in full-time employment in the cultural sector earn 10.6 percent less than men.

The differences are starkest among full-time employees, where men earn an average of £33,000, while their female counterparts earn just £29,500. A gender pay gap was also found in senior positions (among owners and managers), with men earning £1,750 more annually than women, on average. Meanwhile, 45 percent of senior-level men earn more than £40,000, compared with 42 percent of women.

These figures roughly correspond to pay inequality in the wider economy. Recent government legislation required all UK employers with more than 250 employees to publish gender pay differences in a searchable online database. The initiative revealed that over 77 percent of the UK’s medium- and large-sized companies pay women less than men. In the cultural sector, some of the worst offenders were large organizations funded by the government.

“A failure to properly recruit and promote women” is the core of the gender pay gap in the arts sector, the study says, citing the British gender-equality organization The Fawcett Society.

Employees can, however, take a number of steps to help improve the situation, including sharing information about wages with colleagues, joining a trade union, and asking employers to develop a plan to address pay gaps, according to the Fawcett Society.

For employers, the group urges managers to ask themselves if the lack of women in senior positions is based on a failure to properly recruit or promote women. If the majority of female employees are in lower-paid roles they recommend managers ask themselves why women aren’t being promoted. The group also urges companies to tailor recruitment efforts to offer jobs with flexible work arrangements for people with caretaking responsibilities.

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