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How can we best tackle the gender pay gap and ‘motherhood penalty’? New evidence from Understanding Society

Woman cycling

Understanding Society, the UK Household Panel Study led by a team of experts at ISER, will host a debate to discuss new evidence using Understanding Society data to reveal the impact of part-time working on pay, how parenthood shapes gender role attitudes towards employment, and the effects of divorce on gender differences in housing futures.

The event on Wednesday 7 November (12noon-3pm) at Greencoat Place in Westminster, is part of the ESRC Festival of Social Science and marks the publication of our annual Insights report featuring new research using data from the UK’s biggest household panel study.

The introduction of mandatory gender pay reporting for England, Scotland and Wales sparked debate about the performance of well-recognised employers and gendered selection into occupations and sectors. There has been less discussion about the interplay of factors driving the gender pay gap and how best to reduce it. Whilst the gap has narrowed from 19% in 2007 to 13.4% in 2015, nearly 8 in 10 organisations with more than 250 employees have a pay gap in favour of men.

The risks of widescale employer reporting but limited understanding of factors driving the gender pay gap, and well-intentioned but scattered initiatives, are real. For many women, what employers can do - from flexible working and shared parental leave to targeted progression schemes and changing recruitment practices – cannot be isolated from care provision, household dynamics and fathers’ experiences. Is the nature of employment or pay the major challenge when it comes to promoting gender equality? How can “gender equality by design” be underpinned by an employer, individual and household perspective in order to magnify action and connect policy? What impact will the roll-out of Universal Credit have for women on low income and for wider income inequality in society, including the gender pay gap over the lifecourse?

Panel Discussion

How can we best tackle the gender pay gap and ‘motherhood penalty’? How can employers make a much bigger difference? Can equality at work be acheived without equality in the home? What does a gender perspective on social security reveal and what are the effects of Universal Credit for women on low income?


  • Fran Bennett, active member of the Women’s Budget Group and Senior Research and Teaching Fellow, Department of Social Policy and Intervention, University of Oxford

  • Monica Costa Dias, Associate Director, Institute for Fiscal Studies and Research Economist, Centre for Economics and Finance, University of Porto

  • Sam Smethers, Director, Fawcett Society

  • Helen Wright, Founder, employment solutions

For the full programme and sign up for this free event here