08 Mar 2021 3 min read

Why women aren’t winning in the pension stakes – and how to help

By Kim Brown

Despite the improvement automatic enrolment has made in increasing participation in pensions, there’s still a huge disparity when it comes to how much money women can expect to retire on compared with men.



The first reason for this is, simply, that women still get paid less than men. 

Positive societal changes continue, but we’ve a long way to go until we see equality in pay. While improvement has been demonstrated in a relatively (!) quick time in terms of gender equality, the pay gap for those from ethnic minorities or LGBT communities remains wide and, currently, less well understood.

I look forward to, and actively work towards, a diverse, inclusive and equal workplace. In that future, we can take a gender-neutral approach to overseeing pension savings. Until that time, though, what can we do to support members who may not be saving enough towards retirement?

When planning for key life events, many people are relatively comfortable with looking at the implications from every angle. Take starting a family, for instance: prospective parents will plan the leave they’ll take, the adorable tiny outfits they’ll buy, and how they’ll budget for the various different gadgets the new family member may require! But the long-term impact on the primary caregiver’s later earnings and pension savings is often overlooked.

Even in 2021, women are more likely to be that primary caregiver and will often take a career break to do so. Women are also more likely to take leave to care for a loved one, such as an elderly parent, which can result in them having to reduce their hours in paid work or leave work entirely. Such unpaid caring responsibilities, along with parental responsibilities, are recognised as key factors in the gender pension gap.

On International Women’s Day, I believe it’s important to stress the importance of taking longer-term savings into account when making these life decisions – and employers should do what they can to encourage scheme members to consider the impact on their workplace pensions.

What can be done about it?

Ongoing changes to social and workplace attitudes should help even the gender balance in terms of caring responsibilities, alongside the arrival of more flexible working patterns for everyone. That’s a gradual process but one that increased state and employer support could expedite.

Meanwhile, there’s much that employers can do to help level the playing field. For example, they can consider the gaps in pay within their organisations and seek to address these imbalances as soon as possible.

Employers could also consider sharing the messages below with their employees and encourage them to use the tools available to help plan for retirement and find out if they’re saving enough to meet their post-work expectations.

Messages and links to share with scheme members:

Kim Brown

Pension Scheme Director, Legal & General Mastertrust and IGC

Kim joined Legal & General as Pension Scheme Director in February 2020 and reports to the Independent Chair of the Mastertrust and Independent Governance Committee. Before that, she worked for the Pensions Regulator for 12 years, most recently as the head of master trust authorisation. Kim is a member of NextGen and a trustee of the LGBT Switchboard.

Kim Brown