WOMEN are paid significantly less than men at some of Cumbria’s major employers, published gender pay gap figures have revealed.

Those in the education sector were shown to lose out particularly badly, with organisations responsible for the county’s schools among the top three in terms of gender pay disparity.

Topping the list was The Queen Katherine School Multi Academy Trust, who pay their middle-earning women 40.6 per cent less than the equivalent men. The national average gender pay gap is 18.4 per cent.

Cumbria Education Trust, which is responsible for six schools including Tebay Primary, pays women a median average of 35.9 per cent less than men, and Cumbria County Council (CCC), responsible for most state schools in the county, as well as the fire service, highways and a number of other public offices, pays women 25.1 per cent less.

In all three of these companies, women occupied more than half of both the ‘high paying’ and ‘low paying’ roles, according to the figures submitted.

All organisations who employ more than 250 people were required for the first time to publish the gap between men and women’s pay packets last week.

The data, which is based on hourly earnings, covers the difference between the middle female earner and middle male earner in an organisation’s pay range (the median), as well as the difference between the average earning figures for each gender, taken from dividing the total salary payout by the number of staff (mean).

The national average median pay gap is 18.4 per cent in favour of men, and the national average mean is that men earn 17.7 per cent more.

In comparing organisations, the median figure is used to provide an insight into the pay a typical man or woman at a given workplace.

When asked for an explanation as to the pay gap at CCC, Chief Executive Katherine Fairclough said: “Over the last five years the council has implemented a range of policies and actions to ensure it supports and encourages equality in the workplace so that all staff, regardless of gender, can make the most of their potential and have fulfilling and rewarding careers.

“It is important to recognise that male and female employees who do equivalent jobs receive the same pay, and that of the council’s top five salaries, three roles are held by females (one of whom is the chief executive) and two are held by men.

“Regarding our median gender pay gap, the council has a large in-house adult social care service of over 2,000 staff (Cumbria Care) which accounts for around a third of the council’s entire workforce.

“These roles are predominately undertaken by women and tend to be at the lower end of the pay spectrum. As a result this has a large effect on the median gender pay gap figure for the council as a whole.

“Not every local council will have an in-house social care service, meaning comparisons with other local authorities are often not ‘like for like’. Both mean and median figures are clear in our gender pay gap report.”

Cllr Sue Sanderson, a former headteacher who holds the portfolio on CCC for schools and learning, explained that the pay gap at schools was likely influenced by the fact that men, particularly at secondary schools, tended to occupy headships.

This limitation on the roles commonly filled by women influences their potential in how much they can earn.

She suggested that an open-minded approach to appointment of staff, with no prejudice based on gender, could help change this.

“Speaking anecdotally, there just aren’t as many women headteachers,” she said. “Schools are also employing a lot more teaching assistants, who are on the lower end of the pay scale and tend to be women.

“As a woman, who was a headteacher, I think women should be treated equally and be considered for high up roles based on their ability and gender should not come into it.

“It is all about people being open minded going forward. It is governors who appoint staff and they should consider every person who could be suitable for a role.

“It is difficult for schools though because they are independent organisations where governing bodies decide on the wages according to national guidance. Academies are also independent, and run by boards.”

Cllr Sanderson also explained that although the statistics suggest women may occupy most of the ‘high paying’ roles in some schools, headteachers would earn significantly more than heads of department, for example, despite both falling into the ‘high paying’ bracket.

A spokesperson from Cumbria Education Trust said: “Cumbria Education Trust welcomes the requirement to analyse pay gap data and, as an inclusive employer, fully embraces equality of opportunity.

“Like many employers in the education sector, the majority of our employees are female – in fact 75.5% of the 383 staff we employ are females.

“Many of them undertake part-time or flexible roles - such as teaching assistants and support workers - to accommodate the requirements of their lives outside of work.

“These roles clearly carry a lower hourly rate of pay than teaching and managerial roles and the predominance of female employees in lower paid roles has a substantial impact on both median and mean pay gaps. For all staff appointments we adhere to national pay scales (Teachers’ and Local Government) resulting in no inequality in pay between males and females doing the same role.

“CET is committed to the principles of equality and inclusion and to developing a diverse and inclusive workplace. This includes ensuring that staff, irrespective of gender, are supported to reach their full potential.”

"The QKS Multi Academy Trust takes equality very seriously which is the reason behind implementing a job evaluation scheme for support roles a couple of years ago. 

"This was a process by which all support job roles were evaluated by an external consultant to ensure roles were paid on the basis of the skills and competencies required for that particular job and not experience or gender. 

"In terms of the gender pay gap report, it is unfortunate that the way the information is requested does not allow the ability to separately report on teaching staff and support staff salaries. Support roles are generally less well paid than qualified teachers and are more typically occupied by women.

"80 per cent of our support staff are women due to the attraction of term time work and the flexibility around school hours in line with child care responsibilities. 

"This flexibility attracts women into support roles right across the education sector and has led to a false picture of gender pay in education compared to other sectors. 

"The QKS Multi Academy Trust is confident that the gap does not stem from paying men and women differently for the same job, or even the same type of job. 

"The report required us to produce figures for the organisation as a whole but because of the two differing pay structures, when combined, the figures are not truly representative. For this reason further examples have been produced internally for teaching staff and support staff."

"These results showed a median pay gap across all staff of 40.60 per cent, a gap of zero between teaching staff, and a gap of 5.32 per cent for support staff."

Other major employer's who revealed that their gender pay gap is above the national average, included Kendal-based Furmanite, with a 21 per cent gap, and Cumbria Constabulary, whose pay gap is 19.1 per cent.

Although the national average was a gender pay gap in favour of men, a few South Lakeland employers reported paying women more than men on average.

These included South Lakeland District Council, which pays women a median average of 14.3 per cent more than men, and Burneside-based James Cropper, which pays women a median average of 3.1 per cent more than men.

The explanation offered for this was that these businesses had more women in senior management roles, which influenced the average.

Kerry Wallace, Human Resources Manager at SLDC, said: “As an employer SLDC is committed to promoting equal opportunities for all our staff, and we treat all our colleagues and job applicants fairly, holistically and with dignity and respect.

“We are committed to the Equality Act 2010 and best practice guidelines on recruitment and development. We have many women in senior positions within the authority, including on our senior management team.”