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How can it be that women are still earning less than men?

Martin-Christian Kent, executive director, People 1st

Across the hospitality and tourism sector the pay gap between men and women is narrowing, but women are still earning less than men. Is this discrimination or a reflection of the types of roles being filled by women?

Women are consistently earning less than men at an operational level, although this varies across different roles. The greatest contrast in earnings is between men and women working as cooks, with men earning on average £3,678 more per annum.

This contrasts to the increased £1,863 that men on average are earning per annum working as chefs than women.

How much less do women earn annually than men in operational roles?

Cook Waiting staff Chefs Bar staff Kitchen and catering assistants Receptionists
£3,678 £1,877 £1,530 £1,267 £1,520 £1,165



Similarly, at managerial levels, women are consistently earning less, apart from conference and exhibition managers - where women are earning £591 than men. However, the pay differential is much more varied and is greater overall compared to operational roles.

How much less do women earn less than men annually in managerial roles?

Publicans and managers of licensed premises Hotel and accommodation managers Restaurant and catering managers
£3,240 £11,880 £6,351

The differences in pay are unlikely to be the result of any sexual discrimination, but rather reflect the types of setting in which women tend to work. Cooks, for example, can be found across the whole sector, but it is a loose job term and can mean different things in different work contexts. Women tend to work as cooks in schools, which pay less compared to cooks in restaurants, where more men are found.

Since 2011, the pay gap between men and women has narrowed and in some instances by considerable amounts. In 2011, women working as chefs were earning 15% less than men, whereas this has narrowed to 9%. Similarly, the gap for those working as receptionists has narrowed by 17% between 2011 and 2015.

The gap between men and women working as catering and kitchen assistants, however, has widened by four percent. Again, the term kitchen and catering assistants can mean different things in different work settings and the widening pay gap is likely to reflect pay curbs in the public sector, where more women work, than any instances of discrimination.

At managerial level, the gap between male and female pay for those working as publicans has narrowed by 9% since 2011 and the gap for restaurant managers has increased by 14 percent. However, women are still earning 25% less an hour, on average, which is likely to reflect the pay differentials in different hospitality industries, where more women are found working in the public sector.

Pay continues to be an important gauge in the way in which men and women are being treated equally in work and the narrowing pay gap is good news for women working in the hospitality and tourism. However, the continuing pay gap also highlights the structural differences, not so much in the types of occupation in which women are working, but in the industries in which those occupations are found. 

It provides opportunities to look at a sector level at whether more women can be retained and developed in the workforce by thinking afresh at the progression opportunities of these roles and whether more women looking for wider career opportunities can be attracted to other parts of the sector, rather than leaving to work in other parts of the economy.