Project period: May to August 2015

This community later received Accelerator Funding for the project: The GW4 Pay Equality Research Consortium (PERC) 

GW4 community leads

University of Bath: Susan Harkness
University of Bristol: Harriet Bradley
Cardiff University: Alison Parken
University of Exeter: Carol Woodhams (PI)

Twitter: #gw4payequality

Project overview

A central goal of this GW4 consortium will be to determine the feasibility of establishing a multi-disciplinary team that will enable ground-breaking integrative equal pay research via the systematic collection of data using innovative methods. Ultimately, findings will have economic, managerial, human resource and policy implications.


Forty years on from the implementation of the Equal Pay Act (1970), persistent pay inequality amongst men and women (ONS, 2014) still poses a challenge for employees, policy-makers, organisations, and economies. Concerns include the causes of the pay gap, its consequences and possible remedies. The regulation of pay equality highlights a key strategic tension between economic concerns (e.g., competitiveness and productivity), and social/ individual concerns (e.g., workers’ rights, fairness and social justice). These tensions are reflected in the differing assumptions that underpin research approaches. Discussions about pay gaps are controversial between academic disciplines and at all levels of society.

In a context dominated by government discourses of deregulation and a voluntary approach to pay transparency, little resource has been allocated to close gaps. Section 78 of the Equality Act 2010 has not been implemented. The government’s Think, Act, Report initiative which requires the voluntary release of company pay data, has not been widely adopted (Guardian 12.08.2014). Sector-specific studies demonstrate that pay gaps are still considerable and also interactional. Recent research (Woodhams et al, 2013, 2015) within the private sector demonstrates that pay gaps interact where disadvantaged identities intersect. For example, being a disabled ethnic minority woman attracts a signifanctly greater total pay penalty than being first a woman, second ethnic minority and third, disabled.

Project summary

The GW4 PERC combines expertise in pay inequality and the collection of hard-to-access data. The Initiator grant created a space for academics with shared interests to gain insight from others from disciplines that rarely mix. Funds were used to facilitate networking and knowledge exchange events, creating and growing the community. The first event was held with GW4 PI’s, the second introduced a small community of regional scholars and the third was a larger event incorporating keynote speakers from further afield. Initiator funding also facilitated the establishment of a shared resource repository which we continue to populate.