How can the gender pay gap start at five-years-old?

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Picture in your head a neuroscientist.

Picture in your head a dentist.

Picture in your head an electrician.

Picture in your head a lorry driver.

Picture in your head a rugby player.

Picture in your head a child-minder or nursery worker.

Picture in your head a nail bar technician.

Picture in your head a nurse.

Picture in your head a dental assistant.

Picture in your head a HR assistant.

Even if you are tuned in to gender bias and stereotyping you will most likely think up images of men for the first five occupations, and women for the second five. These gender stereotypes contribute to the economic disadvantage faced by women today. We are conditioned by what we see around us, the people we know, the stories we read as children, and what we see on TV and in films. And by the facts.

It is estimated over a third of the gender pay gap is due to women working in industries that are less well paid, and doing jobs that are typically less well paid.

  • Women make up 37.8% of the membership of boards
  • 38% of STEM graduates are women
  • 19% of people in tech and comms industries are women
  • Women occupy 76% of all administrative and secretarial jobs.
  • In state-funded secondary schools, 63% of teachers are women and 38% of headteachers are women.

The problem of women’s under-representation in higher-paid industries and jobs starts in early childhood.

A Fawcett Society study found that girls by the age of six are avoiding subjects they view as requiring them to be “really, really smart”. At the Girls Friendly Society, we hear from girls as young as five saying that they can’t be themselves. At a very young age girls are already limited by societal stereotypes and environments that stifle their confidence.

Girls Friendly Society raises aspirations, broadens horizons, challenges stereotypes and develops the skills and self-belief to help girls reach their full potential.

Our programme includes opportunities to meet women role models who inspire girls and expose gender stereotypes. We invite women with jobs who are breaking stereotypes to visit groups, as well as take girls to places where they can see women breaking the mould.

In May last year over 20 girls went to the Saracens stadium where they met international women’s rugby players and played rugby for the first time.
A new partnership with the Magpies Festival will enable 20 girls to meet with Bella and Holly from the Magpies and experience live folk music at a festival run by women breaking gender stereotypes in the music industry.
Girls at GFS Townhill in Swansea visited by women fire crew.

In February this year, our core programme included fun science activities to mark International Day of Women and Girls in STEM. Many groups invited women in science to their groups to facilitate sessions where girls got to do experiments and be scientists.

GFS Chester le Street got a visit from Billie and Kath, from the science department at Durham University. Billie and Kath ran a session exploring the chemistry of bubbles, where girls got to see the fun in STEM while experiencing positive women role modelling.
GFS Townhill were visited by Mad Science South Wales and got to explore a variety of chemical reactions, explosions, and potions.

Girls Friendly Society’s groups for girls in economically disadvantaged communities in England and Wales are critical for girls to reach their potential. Yet the women and girls charity sector is critically underfunded. A recent report from the Rosa Foundation identified that just 1.8% of grants to charities go to the women and girls sector in the UK. Girls Friendly Society receives no government funding and is reliant on the support of organisations and individuals to provide life-changing sessions for girls in disadvantaged communities.

Organisations committed to addressing the gender pay gap can support Girls Friendly Society to give girls the opportunity to reach their full potential. Contact Laura Jones to find out about partnerships, payroll giving, corporate volunteering and fundraising in your workplace.

Girls Friendly Society have speakers available for webinars and in-person talks for #InternationalWomensDay #WomensHistoryMonth and throughout the year. Contact Laura Sercombe to enquire.

Follow GFS on LinkedIn to join our community dedicated to equality for all girls, and providing support needed for the most disadvantaged girls to thrive.

Visit the Girls Friendly Society website to donate and to discover more about the GFS programme and how it enables girls to thrive.


Mapping the UK Women and Girls Sector and its Funding – Rosa (

WEF_GGGR_2023.pdf (

HM Government, The case for change (

International Women’s Day 2024: Economic inclusion of women – House of Lords Library (

Fawcett Society: Unlimited Potential Dec 2020

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