Female Salaries and Careers in British Banking, 1915-41

Andrew Seltzer (Royal Holloway, University of London)

Abstract: Women were first employed in large numbers by the British banking industry during the First World War, and were an essential part of the industry’s labour force thereafter. During the interwar period, women were often confined to routine back office positions, and could not advance past the level of clerk. Evidence from Williams Deacon’s Bank shows that the salaries of younger women were very similar to their male counterparts; however, an ever-widening gender pay gap emerged after about 5 years seniority. The main reasons for this pay gap were higher exit rates for women, largely due to marriage bars, and lower returns to seniority. Promotion restrictions, though ubiquitous, account for a relatively small proportion of the gender pay gap. Despite the pay gap, the marriage bar, and the lack of promotion opportunities, a sizable proportion of female clerks were very loyal to the Bank and remained for 10 or more years. This was due to the absence of better opportunities elsewhere in the labour market.

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