//Women dominate the teaching profession, but men are winning the pay game

Women dominate the teaching profession, but men are winning the pay game

By |2016-12-07T12:55:38+00:005th March 2015|Teacher careers|

It has been well reported that women fall behind men in their rates of promotion to school senior leadership positions. The well-versed reasons for this are similar to other professions, with women taking more time than men out of the labour market when they become parents, many deliberately choosing to take lower responsibility roles and others never returning to teaching at all. However, even for those female teachers who do achieve senior leadership roles, their wages are lower than men with the same level of responsibility. In this piece we look at teachers working full-time across two years of the School Workforce Census to try to understand how these pay differences emerge.

There are average wage differences between male and female teachers

There are average wage differences between male and female teachers

Women achieve a smaller annual pay rise than men

If we compare teachers working full-time in both 2010 and 2011, women achieve a smaller annual pay rise than men at all levels of seniority. This is true when controlling for initial level of pay, age of teacher, tenure at school and region (unfortunately we do not have the teacher’s total years of experience in this version of the dataset).

Differences in annual pay rises between men and women


Career move differences are particularly pronounced for deputy heads

The gender differences for those in deputy head positions in 2010 is particularly large, at almost £400, and so we explore what type of career moves are taking place to explain these differences. In any one year, most deputy heads remain as deputy heads in the same school. Similar proportions of men and women make a sideways move to another school, but the proportion achieving promotion to headship looks quite different.

Women are a little more likely to achieve internal promotion to head within the same school, but are far less likely to be promoted to a different school in the same region or in another region. They may feel less confident that they are ready to seek promotion to headship or may have other life commitments that mean they feel unable to take it on. They may feel highly geographically constrained by a Types of career moves for deputy heaspouse job or childcare arrangements. Alternatively, selection panels may frequently have an unconscious bias towards a male candidate when they are previously unknown to the school.

Types of career moves for deputy heads

Types of career moves for deputy heads

More work is needed to understand the stark differences in pay rises associated with promotion

Some of these different sorts of job moves are associated with a gender difference in wage rises. Men achieve substantially greater pay rises on promotion to head than women do, and this is true whether they do so via internal or external promotion. They actually see a greater wage fall if they decide to make a sideways move to a deputy head post at a new school – these moves may be forced by household relocations and some of this wage fall is explained by loss of London weighting. But even for those remaining as a deputy head within the same school, the wage rise advantage of men remains. All these patterns hold if we control for the teachers’ initial pay, age, tenure in school and region.

Annual pay rise for deputy heads by career move

Annual pay rise for deputy heads by career move. Note: all differences are statistically significant

The apparent wage bargaining advantage for men is much stronger in secondary schools than in primary schools. We cannot show why this is. It may be explained by greater wage variation overall for secondary headteachers or result from lower levels of guidance in wage setting from local authorities. Or it may simply be that men receive these higher wages in return for the types of roles they take on, whether they be more complex schools or risky headships of previously underperforming schools.

By looking at average pay rises rather than just average salaries, this analysis suggests that lower pay for women in senior roles is not caused solely by slower career progression (due to family commitments for example). Female leaders seem to be offered lower pay rises for the same roles. It is not a great finding for a profession that can claim with some pride to have one of the largest densities of female chief executives in the country. A more professionalised recruitment and pay-setting process for senior roles might help; this is an especially urgent need now that significant discretion on pay has been delegated to governing bodies.

Russell Hobby, General Secretary, National Association of Head Teachers


This depressing analysis mirrors the picture we have seen among the almost 100 participants on the Future Leaders programme who have so far secured headship. Female Future Leaders heads are far more likely than their male counterparts to be in an interim or acting role – which is more likely to happen in an internal appointment. It is almost as if women have to prove themselves to governors (and sometimes to themselves) in a way that isn’t expected of men before being able to take on the role substantively. And those who do look elsewhere for headships can face discrimination from governing bodies looking to recruit the ‘right man’ for the job, evidenced both in anecdotal feedback and figures suggesting our female Future Leaders make more applications on average than male Future Leaders before securing their first headship.

Kate Chhatwal, Chief Programme Officer, Future Leaders


Both career breaks and a lack of mobility may affect the pay of women leaders in schools, leaving them earning less than men.

Prof John Howson, Chairman, Oxford Teacher Services Limited



About the Author:

Rebecca Allen is an associate research fellow, having led FFT Education Datalab from its launch in February 2015 to January 2018. She is an expert in the analysis of large scale administrative and survey datasets, including the National Pupil Database and School Workforce Census. In January 2018 she took up a position as a professor at the UCL Institute of Education, leading the Centre for Education Improvement Science.

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