Youth Theatre Apprentice Adam examines the gender pay gap: what, why and how can we create change?

Date Created: 9th Nov 2017

London underground 'Mind the gap' sign adapted to look like the universal symbol for female with the text 'The average female full-time worker in the UK earns 14.5% less than her male counterpart./ Isn't it time we closed the gap?'

Share this:

In honour of Equal Pay Day 2017, Youth Theatre Apprentice Adam shares his findings and thoughts on the UK’s gender pay gap and questions what can be done to tackle this in the creative and cultural industry…

In 2016 the Institute for Fiscal Studies found that on average, women earn 18% less than men in the UK.

Whilst a separate study by Korn Ferry Hay Group showed a disparity of just 0.8% when comparing men and women like for like (working the same jobs at the same level) it also revealed that there are far fewer women in top level management and that they struggle to progress up the ladder into higher paid roles throughout their careers which accounts for the 18% pay gap on average between men and women.

Illustration of a career ladder for a woman with one step at the bottom and a career ladder for a man with steps all the way to the top

This information suggests that the gender pay gap is due to how highly women are allowed (or think they are allowed) to achieve in society- the glass ceiling effect, and is not due to a simple inbuilt inequality within their wages.

This is an issue of cultural mindset: historically, women have been subordinate to men in all walks of life, and it is only through the last century that the gap between the genders has started to be eradicated. As a result of this patriarchal history and the cultural mindset this has embedded within our society, women are not able to achieve to the same standard as men. So, in order to re-adjust the inequality, I believe you must look at the bigger picture and tackle the overall views and messages society gives to women, alongside advocating for equal pay in the workplace – a 0.8% discrepancy is still a discrepancy which needs to be challenged.

The existence of the gender pay gap in the creative and cultural industry became front page news this summer when a BBC report revealed that the majority of their highest earning stars are male. Two thirds of all earners over £150k were men with just one woman, Claudia Winkleman, making it into the top 10 highest earners. So why has this happened? Former business minister and Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader Jo Swinson puts it down to “the structural gender, race and class bias across all of society at all levels, including the BBC” which I would agree with.

Two women in suits, one with a briefcase high fiving with the headline 'Women- Like men, only cheaper.'

However, if you look at the highest earners at the BBC – Chris Evans, Gary Lineker, Jeremy Vine, Huw Edwards, Graham Norton, – they all have the weight of cultural significance behind them. These are personalities who have been widely recognised and loved in the UK, specifically working with the BBC, for over 20 years now. They are household names. Wages for ‘personalities’ in this sense are largely dependent on the weight of the name they are attached to, and how much competition is trying to buy that presenter away. The argument again comes back to the question of, why? Why is it predominantly men who have this level of significance behind them? It reverts back to the matter of structural gender bias which Jo Swinson expressed.

I do believe that this is changing with the younger generation, and society in general is slowly becoming more gender-balanced, at least in representation. Over the past few years there have been a lot of key leading roles for women in the theatre with female actresses beginning to receive the respect and prestige they deserve, look no further than reviews of the Donmar’s outstanding Shakespeare Trilogy. There was also research conducted by The Stage newspaper and separately by ArtsProfessional, both in 2015, which found that, despite women outnumbering men in the sector by 2:1, men on average still earned substantially higher amounts at all levels. This is an imbalance which needs to be rectified.

Representation is important, and if women see that they are worth less at every level, then it is naturally going to be discouraging. The arts should aim to include everybody equally, regardless of race, gender, sexuality or circumstance, and the only way for this to proceed fairly is for everyone to receive the same reward for the same work!

The BBC’s report sparked a backlash, in which the women at the BBC said they were going to fight harder for greater wage equality, and it has opened up a conversation on a national scale, which proves that we are moving in a positive direction.

So what can be done about it? To tackle this, the industry could pledge to work to close the gender pay gap and encourage young women to aim for higher and more influential roles within the arts. This would ensure that the gender pay gap continues to shrink and would also increase representation for women in the arts, which would then trickle down and offer wider influence to the industry as a whole. We could also ensure that women are being given equal opportunities at all stages of the industry, and are given the opportunity to crossover into male-dominated areas, such as Technical Teams and the music industry.

There is a lot of information to suggest that the representation of women within the arts is getting better compared to where they stood at the beginning of the 20th century, but there is still a huge gap, which is reflected in pay rates. There are, however, some initiatives from art galleries like Uffizi and the Tate to address the gender imbalance within the work they exhibit. The effect from this higher representation is that the women who are featured will then be paid for their work, giving them a higher profile, which in turn means that the gender gap will eventually close due to their higher standing within the Creative & Cultural Industries. Representation in this sense is inextricably linked to the pay gap, and only through further representation will the gap cease to exist.

Words: Adam, Level 2 Apprentice, 2017

Interested in finding out more about the gender pay gap? Read the latest reports on this issue here

Are you aged 15-25 and working in the creative and cultural sector? We would love to hear from you about your experiences so far! If you have any words of wisdom you would like to pass on to your fellow young professionals or views on issues facing our sector please contact Megan at 

Sign up to our newsletter

Receive the latest News & Events straight to your inbox

Recieve the lastest News & Events straight to your inbox

Opt into another list