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Gender Pay: Which Industries Are Doing The Most To Close The Gap?

Prime Minister Theresa May’s 2017 Conservative Party speech will live long in the memory as a total and unmitigated disaster. Somewhere in the middle of a coughing fit, a P45-carrying protestor and letters falling off a wall, the PM undoubtedly said something inspiring – but ultimately, no-one really got to hear, or will remember, the content.

There were no such problems for Mrs May in Birmingham in 2016, during which she underlined her commitment to eradicating the gender pay gap between men and women ‘within a generation’.

Among legislation that has been rolled out as a result include: 

  • An audit for organisations with over 250 employees, who must report their gender pay gaps by April 2018
  • The offer of 30 hours of free childcare for working families with 3 and 4 year-olds, to relieve the pressure on parents (with women often bearing the brunt for childcare)
  • Extending the right to request flexible working to all employees
  • The introduction of shared parental leave.

And while the gender pay gap still exists, it is reducing, with small businesses leading the charge. A new report out from Informi has found that the gap has reduced in SME-dominated industries from 22% to 13% over the past decade, compared to a national fall from 21% to 17%.


So which industries are leading the charge?

To put together our findings, Informi focused on a range of different industries, and in particular honed in on 12 sectors where at least 50% of the workforce is at a small or medium-sized business.

Among those sectors, the gender pay gap currently ranges from -11% to 22%. One industry, water supply, is the only one to report an inverse gender pay gap, where women earn an average of £1.11 for every £1 a man earns.


The gender pay gap in SME-dominated industries has fallen from 22% to 13%


In the real estate sector, while there remains a gender pay gap of 19%, female pay relative to male pay has improved the most since 2008, by 30%. In that sector, women who were paid an average of 63p for every £1 a man earned now earn 81p. It’s still a significant gap, but women now earn an average of £14.21 an hour compared to just £11.52 ten years ago. Men meanwhile currently earn an average of £17.46 per hour, down from £18.34 in 2008.


The real estate industry has shown the best improvement in reducing the gender pay gap.


So what are the reasons for real estate and water supply acting as trailblazers for other industries to follow in reducing, and getting rid of, the gender pay gap? And why are SME-dominated industries so much better at pay equality than the overall national picture?

Solutions to these questions could revolve around the lack of shackles around legacy issues and tradition for small businesses. Many could take a more caring approach, offer the very flexible working patterns that Mrs May has been calling for, or simply recognise that fair pay is in everyone’s best interests.

After all, customers are more likely to respond well to companies who take a strong ethical approach, and offering equal progression opportunities is part of this process. 

Equally, regular payroll reviews, strong recruitment processes, and forward-thinking approaches that tie into the needs of a professional workplace in the modern day could provide some answers to our findings. 

But we’d love to find out more. If you have any thoughts on these findings, do comment below or via our forums, drop us a line at, tweet us @InformiUK or drop us a line on Facebook


Download Informi’s new ‘Closing the Gender Pay Gap: Are small businesses bucking the national trend – or do pay disparities in your industry still exist?’ report.  

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