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The BBC's Jenny Scott
"Gender differences do persist, most notably in pay"
 real 56k

Friday, 29 December, 2000, 01:16 GMT
Employers urged to close pay gap
Workers in a factory
Women workers earn an average of 18% less than men
Since the Sex Discrimination Act was passed, 25 years ago on Friday, there has been considerable progress in closing the gender pay gap.

But in a report to be launched next month the Equal Opportunities Commission will urge employers to do much more to combat inequality.

Union leaders will also be mounting campaigns on equal pay in the New Year, pressing firms to examine their wage structures.

In 1975 the pay difference between men and women was almost 40%.

Today they are still earning, on average, about 20% less than their male colleagues.

Women MPs

However, there have been some areas of dramatic improvement.

Women made up just 1.8% of company executives 25 years ago, but today more than one in five executives and one in 10 company directors are female.

There were just 27 women MPs in Parliament following the general election in October 1974, but now almost one in five are female.

The Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly have an even greater proportion of women members, about one in three.

Over the past 25 years, women have taken an increasing share of the labour market, from 40% to 45%.

In 1975, women held four-fifths of the 4.2 million part-time jobs in Britain.

Today that number has risen to six million, but most of the positions are still filled by women.

The popularity of marriage and the age that women have children have also changed over the years.

In 1976, 70% of men and 64% of women were married, compared with 60% and 54% in 1998.

The average age for a woman to have her first child in 1976 was 23, compared with 26 last year.

Another change is that far less people in the UK now believe that a wife's job is to look after the home while the husband works.

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25 May 00 | Business
Action urged on pay gap
25 May 00 | UK
'Long delay for equal pay'
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