Women are asking for lower pay than their male counterparts for identical senior roles, according to new research. The study of over 6,000 senior executives by Norrie Johnston Recruitment (NJR) found a 25% difference between the salaries expected by male and female non-executive directors; male non-exec directors (NEDs) on average are looking for an annual salary of £106,935 whereas women going for the same NED roles expect £83,125.  

The data, featured in NJR’s report Women, Pay & Progress – closing the gender pay gap shows that the problem is widespread with men’s salary expectations higher than women’s for 10 of the 13 senior/board-level roles studied.  Men pursuing customer service head roles on average expect to be paid £93,833. In contrast, female customer service heads expect £75,114 – a 22% difference.  There’s a 14.5% difference for financial director roles whilst for chief operations officers and sales directors the pay gap is 13% and 12% respectively.

Graham Oates, Norrie Johnston Recruitment’s CEO elaborates: “We’re not saying that companies coming to us with senior roles to fill expect to pay women less than men, absolutely not.  The differences we’ve recorded are the salary expectations set by the candidates themselves.

“When gender pay gap statistics were made public for the first time earlier this year many argued that the major factor behind the disparity was that there are more men than women in senior positions; the challenge was simply to help more women reach the top.  However, our research suggests that even when women get into senior roles a major pay gap can still prevail.”

Things are less marked for MDs/CEOs (2.5%), senior change managers (7.5%), facilities managers (3%) and marketing directors (3%), but there’s a gap all the same, and every time it is in favour of men.  

There are a few roles where there is almost parity, namely HR, supply chain management and IT programme management.  Furthermore, with chief technology officer (CTO) roles the difference tips in favour of women, with an 8% differential, but these are the rare exceptions to the rule.

Oates continues: “It’s fair to assume that the senior executives we studied are basing their salary expectations on their most recent roles. If that’s the case, then what appears to be happening is that women somehow find themselves on a career trajectory which culminates in them being on a pay scale which is out of kilter by the time they reach a senior level. This needs to be addressed. 

“The various bodies looking to tackle the pay gap issue need to perhaps consider how young women early in their careers value themselves within the labour market, and what happens to their pay, career path and opportunities as they progress. We need to understand how things get out of step.”

Norrie Johnston Recruitment, which is an executive search and interim management agency, also looked at the day rate expectations of senior interim managers and found that while the gap isn’t as significant, there is still a sizeable disparity for eight of the 13 senior interim roles studied. The biggest gap is a 15% difference between the day rates of male and female interim non-exec directors in favour of men, and double-digit differences for interim senior change manager and customer service roles.  Again, IT appears to be the one area where the tables are turned, with female interim CTOs and IT project/programme managers expecting a significantly higher day rate than their male counterparts.

Oates concludes: “As an interface between organisations and the talent they employ, we work hard to ensure that all our candidates are fairly evaluated for all roles and are properly remunerated based on the value that they can bring, irrespective of gender. Hopefully, by flagging these figures we are adding more insight to the debate and drive to eradicate this gender pay imbalance.”