get started

The Busy Person’s Guide to Understanding Gender Disparity in the UK 

When it comes to issues of equality and fairness within the workplace, it can be tricky to know which way to turn and who to listen to. So many sources offer conflicting information, and even if it’s accurate information, it may be outdated or not applicable to the needs of your teams. So, where can you go for the rundown on gender disparity in the UK? The Busy Person’s Guide is an article series designed to centralise all the need-to-know information you can read over a coffee or on your commute. 

The Busy Person’s Guide to Understanding Gender Disparity in the UK

This series is easily digestible and understandable information created to arm you and your teams with a concise working knowledge of the top lines in the gender equality discourse. What may seem like an insurmountable and complex subject is broken down into smaller parts so you can get a handle on this movement and then take what you learn to work with you every day and begin to build connection, clarity and confidence. The Busy Person’s Guide opens up the subject of gender equality in the workplace and brings everyone into the conversation. Let’s make change happen together. When women thrive, men thrive, business thrives.  

Let’s dive in… 


Is Gender Disparity The Same As Gender Equality? 

Is Gender Disparity The Same As Gender Equality? 

Gender disparity is an umbrella term used to describe the difference in women’s and men’s access to resources, status, and well-being, which usually favours men. This disparity is often the result of institutionalised views, laws, and societal ‘norms’. Gender disparity is still a crucial factor in reaching gender equality in the UK, but the terms do not mean the same thing. Gender disparities still exist, though this term is often used as a ‘catch-all’ when people mean specific instances of it or are discussing gender equality. The correct understanding and use of terminologies such as gender disparity and equality are necessary to move into a mode of consciousness surrounding their described issues.  

What is Gender Equality? 

Gender equality is the concept of equal rights and opportunities for all, regardless of gender. We describe it as a ‘concept’ because irrespective of the legal presidents laid down to protect the interest of gender equality, inequality is still an ingrained, institutionalised, and rampant issue worldwide.  

What is Gender Equality? 

How does Gender Disparity Present in The Workplace? 

When discussing gender disparity, knowing its common constituent issues is critical. While gender disparity often includes the wage gap and gender imbalances in specific fields, they do not mean the same thing. So, let’s take a quick look at how disparity manifests.  

The Pay Gap  

The pay gap crops up continually, and we discuss this topic in great depth in our work at Shine. To define the pay gap more concisely, we’ve summarised it. The pay gap is the average difference between male and female wages in the UK, wherein men earn more when averaged across the entire working population. However, this does not mean that men are necessarily paid more for doing the same job as a woman (though this is an issue in certain instances), but rather, women perform lesser-paid roles on average. It is important to note that for full-time workers under forty, the pay gap is very close to zero, and when mapped across the last two decades, we can see the pay gap diminishing across all age groups, albeit slowly, there is still work to be done.  

How does Gender Disparity Present in The Workplace? 

Industry Disparities (Gender Imbalance) 

The pay gap, however, is still precipitated by industry disparity. One of the key things to excise from the pay gap discussion is the imbalance in gender across specific industries and the inherent average pay within those industries. Currently, women outweigh men statistically in roles such as hospitality and cleaning, certain types of manufacturing (the garment industry, for example), and caring, which offer lower wages versus industries where men outweigh females. STEM fields are the commonly cited culprit for this and are dominated by men and offer higher-than-average wages. In this instance, the solution is not to force an averaging of the wages across those two industries, but to ensure that both females and males are given equal opportunity, encouragement, and support when pursuing a desired career path, and eliminating instilled cultural ‘norms’ that mean women feel unwelcome, out of place, or that they are defying societal typicality by pursuing a future in sciences, technology, engineering, or math.  

Gender Discrimination  

While gender discrimination is not limited to the discrimination of female workers, this is how it often presents itself. Institutionalised discrimination is often passed off as acceptable as it becomes normative. Terms like ‘boys’ club’ often get thrown around when talking about certain industries or business spheres, which diminishes the issue at hand, making light of what is serious institutionalised gender discrimination.  

While females are not lawfully prevented from entering these fields in this example, the environment they are entering is inherently hostile to them as a gender minority, and there can develop a culture of opposition within these environments, painting any female as an ‘invader’, or someone who’s sole desire is to upset the status quo. Discrimination can present in many different ways, and each adds to the concept of gender disparity as a whole.  

Industry Disparities (Gender Imbalance) 

Exclusion and Tokenism  

Exclusion and tokenism are issues that have developed alongside the gender disparity and equality movements. Exclusion refers to the intentional prevention of someone of a gender from entering a field, business, or from attaining something while (very often) not appearing this way by law. When we talked about ‘boys’ clubs’ above, this can present as a type of exclusion. For example, should a group of managers play golf together on the weekend and discuss business, knowing that a female colleague doesn’t play — this is exclusion.  

Tokenism is exclusion veiled as inclusion. For example, it is the hiring of a female manager in order to achieve the appearance of equality, while the men still make all the decisions on the golf course where they aren’t present.  

What Is The UK Doing To Combat Gender Disparity And Improve Gender Equality? 

Gender disparity in the UK is at the forefront of many conversations in parliament. There are currently several measures, initiatives, and movements in place that are striving for diminished disparity and improved equality in the United Kingdom. We have taken a sideways glance at the significant movements by the UK government… 

Mandated reporting of wages  

Since 2017, UK companies with 250 employees or more must provide snapshot data to show that they comply with regulations regarding the gender pay gap and equal pay measures. This data is then used to help calculate the gender pay gap in the UK. 

Reducing gender imbalance in STEM fields 

The UK government are backing a move to reduce the gender gaps in STEM qualifications and wages by 2030, which could facilitate an estimated increase in the UK economy of around 2%, or £55b. 

Promoting a culture of learning and education surrounding gender disparity and inequality 

The UK government focuses more on educating younger people about gender equality and ensuring that equality is achieved in the long term, and less on changing the minds of those whose notions of equality may never be changed.  

What Is The UK Doing To Combat Gender Disparity And Improve Gender Equality? 

Reaching True Gender Equality  

It is difficult to estimate the amount of time it will take to reach true equality. While many initiatives strive for it, some factors will always prove difficult to break. Institutionalisation is the most challenging hurdle, with many parents passing down antiquated views that may stem from personal experience, cultural microcosms, or other beliefs that prevent change at all levels.  

There will always remain natural imbalances in certain fields, either by chance or simply as a result of gender biases and preclusions that will continue to manifest. It is not the aim of gender equality to forcefully eliminate this, but rather to reach a state where no person, regardless of their gender, feels that a certain career is not available to them based solely on their gender.  

Our work at Shine 

At Shine, we work with organisations across all industries to improve gender equality from within. We do this via workshops with women in the business that give them the opportunity to build a bigger vision and plan for themselves, both personally and professionally. This sees them actively setting their sights on achieving greater seniority and taking more ownership of what they need from the organisation in order to succeed. A key part of the process is where we engage their line managers, who are both female and male, to educate them and enrol them as true champions for accelerating the progress of equality. By making everyone in any organisation, in any given industry a champion for change, we can begin to see everyone achieve their goals.  

There you have it, the top line state of play in the current gender disparity discourse. You might now be thinking of how deep the subject goes, leaving you with so many more questions and stones unturned but don’t worry. This is a conversation starter, a place to come to open the door to making your workplace and your environment, fairer and more open. Share this article with your colleagues and the people around you and encourage a healthy discussion, make business more human by simply talking. And for anything else, follow us on social media or get in touch via email but remember when women thrive, men thrive, business thrives. 

Related Reading


The material and information contained on this website is for general information purposes only. You should not rely upon the material or information on the website as a basis for making any business, legal or any other decisions. Whilst we endeavour to keep the information up to date and correct, Shine for Women LLP makes no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability or availability with respect to the website or the information, products, services or related graphics contained on the website for any purpose. Any reliance you place on such material is therefore strictly at your own risk. 

Shine for Women LLP will not be liable for any false, inaccurate, inappropriate or incomplete information presented on the website. 

Certain links in this website will lead to websites which are not under the control of Shine for Women LLP. When you activate these, you will leave the Shine for Women LLP website. Shine for Women LLP has no control over and accepts no liability in respect of materials, products or services available on any website which is To the extent not prohibited by law, in no circumstances shall Shine4women be liable to you or any other third parties for any loss or damage (including, without limitation, damage for loss of business or loss of profits) arising directly or indirectly from your use of or inability to use, this site or any of the material contained in it. 

Gender Parity for Economic Recovery

read more

Why does gender inclusion matter to the Construction industry? 

read more

The Busy Person’s Guide: 100 Facts on Why Gender Equality matters 

read more

Reaching a gender balance in senior management within 12 months

read more

Have a chat
with us

Schedule a 20 minute call to discover how Shine can help you and your organisation to reach gender parity and achieve better business results.