When it comes to the salary differential between men and women in the financial sector, it’s accepted wisdom that women earn less because they pause their career to have children. Women start on a level pegging with men, but having spent a few years changing nappies, they struggle to advance to a senior, or revenue generating, position later on.
Inexplicably, therefore, new figures from recruiters Marks Sattin suggest that female accountants' pay lags male accountants' pay from the moment they qualify.
As the table below shows, newly-qualified female accountants in the UK earn over £6k less than their male counterparts from the outset, a gap that increases gradually until it’s a hefty £26k ten years after qualification.
Why? In theory, the largest proportion of newly qualified accountants are going to be coming out of the Big Four accounting firms, which have been making efforts to hire more women on to their graduate schemes and will pay a standard salary to any new graduate – accountancy starting salaries are £26k in the UK, according to the Association of Graduate recruiters.
The most obvious explanation is that female accountants aren't selecting the sectors where pay is highest. In particular, maybe they're not selecting banking? Figures from the ICAEW 2013 salary guide break down pay by sector (below) – show that banking and capital markets (an industry women have traditionally struggled to break into) pays decidedly more than any other sector.
This is supported by Marks Sattin's analysis, which suggests that 38% of newly-qualified male accountants work in banking and financial services, compared to 25% of newly qualified females.
Reassuringly, the ICAEW’s figures suggest that the gender gap globally is just £1.7k on average for accountants under 30, a figure that has narrowed over the past 12 months. While Mark Sattin's figures suggest gender discrimination is rife in the UK accounting sector, the ICAEW's survey suggests the salary differential between male and female accountants in the country is a mere £3k.