Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg and Yahoo!'s Marissa Mayer (Photos: Reuters)
Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg and Yahoo!'s Marissa Mayer (Photos: Reuters)

Breaking the 'glass ceiling' means significantly more than just getting women into the boardroom and into male-dominated industries. As a recent study has shown, the disparity between gender pay signals that the fight for equality is far from over.

Companies looking for good PR hold their corporate statistics aloft and foghorn out that there are significantly more women in the boardroom now than even just three years ago. But one of the biggest problems that effect a wider demographic of working women is still, and continues to be, equal pay.

I am not talking about the Sheryl Sandberg's and Marissa Mayer's of the world, I am talking about the millions of women that, may not reach astronomical success, but are consistently reaching for the stars.

We concentrate on Facebook's Sandberg and Yahoo's Mayer because they are undoubtedly awe-inspiring female boardroom pioneers in the tech industry, which is a sector that is still dominated by men.

However, our focus is so honed in on getting to the top that millions or billions of women in industry around the world are still working at a disgustingly and despairingly disproportionate difference in pay.

In the US, women must work 15 months and nine days to receive a paycheck equal to what men doing the same job received in 2012, according to American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees data.

Pay data in the UK is just as depressing.

According to the Women in Work Index, Britain recently ranked 18th out of 27 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries for pay equality, the female unemployment rate, and the proportion of women working full-time.

But sadly, the data shows that the fight for narrowing the gender wage gap in the UK is being lost, as Britain ranked lower in the index, than nearly six years ago.

Back to Basics

The naysayers spout that not only is getting more women into the boardroom a box ticking exercise but that gender pay gaps is a falsity because of complexity of calculating true pay. Well, behind the theoretical frothing, this is what I think they were trying to convey.

Well, that is partly true, it is not just about qualifications- it's also about experience, where you have worked, what level, performance - the list is painfully long.

But what critics seem to neglect is the fact that these are areas that have previously been difficult for women to break into. Women have been held back from progressing because of gender inequality for decades.

If critics want to be logically hardcore, surely if we strip away all the variables, such as experience and performance, and back to a basic level of measurement of qualifications, then why is there a depressingly large gulf in graduate pay for men and women?

The report by the Centre for Economic Performance (CEP) shows that there is a substantial gender split when it comes to a difference in degree grades and the effect is has on graduates' first pay cheques.

Men who gained a First Class degree from the London School Economics received a 6% boost in their wages, compared to counterparts who got a 2:1.

Well, guess what? "Women basically get nothing," said the report.

In cash terms, if this difference remained over a 40-year career, this would be worth about £71,000.

What Can Be Done?

The authors of the report, Andy Feng and Georg Graetz, don't really give any help to understand this.

"The difference between monetary gains for men and women is a puzzle. Perhaps men are more likely to ask for or be given a higher wage offer. We honestly don't know," they said.

Well, great.

Other data shows similar readings.

In March, a study by the Warwick Institute for Employment Research on behalf of the Higher Education Careers Services Unit (Hecsu) showed that women who had just received their degree were more consistently at the lower end of the salary range.

Similar to the CEP report, the Hecsu study showed that women who had just received their degree were more consistently at the lower end of the salary range.

While women, on average, were collecting between £15-17,999 and £21-23,999 in pay, men were more likely to earn salaries of £24,000 or more.

In the law industry, which has a defined way of progressing through qualifications and serving terms, women could expect to take home a starting salary of £20,000 a year whereas men graduating in the same discipline would rake in an annual salary of £28,000.

We celebrate data that shows that there are now 192 women directors on FTSE 100 boards out of a total of 1,110, according to the Cranfield School of Management's Female FTSE Report, and that women now account for 17.3% of all directorships, up from 10.5% in 2010.

But, while is this seems like the battle is being won, this is a small victory for the millions of other women who are still fighting for equal pay.

Lawmakers Need to Focus on Pay

The UK government, for example, is not keen on outing the companies that still laugh in the face of the UK Equal Pay Act 1970.

Last week, lawmakers said that companies that are required to undertake equal pay audits would not be required to make the results of those audits public.

Of course there are many campaigns out there, but as with all changes to legislation, without government focus and support nothing will change.

Companies will continue to flout the equal pay act and hope, maybe, that the comparatively meagre wages will stop female employees from speaking up and embracing litigation. Lack of enforced transparency will also exacerbate this.

UK business secretary Vince Cable said last month that there is a chronic shortage of women in top jobs.

Yes, there are, but how about the millions of women that are not looking to lead a company but are just wanting a equal wage?