Industry news, research and expert opinion

image of Gary Burchett


Written by Jill Henderson, Head of Business Development, Scottish Widows.


Although addressing the gender pension gap is a societal and industry-wide issue, there are still some tangible steps you can take to make a difference. 

It’s often too late when people start drawing their retirement income and discover that it’s significantly below what they need. And for women, the impact is even greater – as on average, women are retiring with £123,000 less than men, and ethnic minority women are less likely to have a pension at all.[1] The gender pension gap is further exacerbated as women tend to live longer than men and are more likely to need care during their later life, so they need an additional £85,000 in retirement savings than men for a comparable quality of life in retirement.[1]    

Why is the gender pension gap still so big?

Typically, women are more likely to earn less than men, and have career breaks for caring responsibilities which often disproportionately fall more on women. Additionally, 72% of part-time workers are women.[1] This reduction in earnings inevitably has a direct impact on pension savings.

Creating more inclusive retirement outcomes requires action from all. We’re actively lobbying for pension policy reform including introducing higher default contribution rates, and ensuring employer contributions continue even when employees opt out to help more people save adequately. Extending the automatic enrolment mechanism to the self-employed would also help a further 1.5 million women save more for retirement.[2] 

Further action, including lowering the minimum age for automatic enrolment, and scrapping the automatic enrolment minimum earnings threshold could help 1.8 million jobs occupied by women be brought into the pension system.[3] Considering pensions in divorce proceedings, and ensuring enhanced maternity pensions retain their pre-maternity levels and replicate salary sacrifice schemes, would also help close the gender pension gap. 

What steps can you take to help close the gap?

It’s not just policymakers that can make a difference. As advisers, there are also steps you can take to minimise the gender pension gap.

Lead by Example

The more diverse we are, the better we connect with our clients and prospective clients. The financial services industry has vastly progressed in recent years but there is still more to do. Ensuring we have good representation in our businesses will help us take meaningful steps and better serve our clients. Introducing diversity targets and scrutinising candidate shortlists more closely will help check unconscious bias. This can be taken further with the introduction of diversity leads to support fair recruitment and establish a level of accountability.


As consultants and advisers, you have a unique view in understanding the economic challenges that employers and members face. It’s imperative that we work together to use our combined insight and target key issues, including the impact that divorce and taking career breaks has on saving for retirement. In your conversations with employers, you can raise awareness around these challenges and encourage targeted member communications and strong engagement. By raising awareness, we can help women make more informed choices which in turn will help them secure an equitable retirement.


Scottish Widows have been campaigning to make changes to government legislation and policy. If we can collectively stand behind proposals such as removing the lower earnings threshold on automatic enrolment and increasing contribution minimums, we can shape a more prosperous future for many. 

Finally, we all have a role to play in making the retirement savings journey accessible for all. It’s important we are clear, concise and engaging in our communications, making conversations on the topic of pensions more approachable, and in turn, contributing towards a fairer financial future. 

We have a wealth of online support including education and guidance on our dedicated hub which includes more information about why the gender pension gap exists, and provides practical information to help close that gap. Our ‘Meet Your Future Self’ tool also helps people understand if they’re on track for the retirement they want. 

Jill Henderson, 
Head of Business Development


[1] According to research from Scottish Widows, 2022 Women and Retirement Report (PDF, 3MB).

[2] According to research from Office for National Statistics, Data and analysis from Census 2021.

[3] According to research from Office for National Statistics, Pension type by age group and gross weekly earnings bands.