The gender pay gap for copywriters in 2020

Our annual survey always gives us plenty to think about.

One of the hottest topics to come out this year is the gender pay gap.

640 professional writers responded to our survey back in January: 62% women, and 38% men. So what do they think about the issue?

Perceptions of the gender pay gap

In an article written in 2018 for, Gemma Germains said the gender pay gap in the creative industry is “all but invisible from the debate”. But not from our debate: we always ask the question in our annual survey.

The answers we received show:

  • 38% of women said they DO believe gender impacts pay – 21% of men agreed.
  • 21% of women said they DO NOT believe gender impacts pay – 38% of men agreed.
  • 40% of both men and women said they were unsure.

Salaries and gaps

We asked male and female writers their salaries: including those who work in employed and freelance roles simultaneously, as well as agency writers, freelancers, in-house writers, and agency founders. We then compared women’s and men’s salaries and found the difference – what we call the gender pay gap.

Here’s what we found:

  • Employed and freelance: 27% gap
  • Agency: 29% gap
  • Freelance: 4% gap
  • In-house: 10% gap
  • Agency founder: 9% gap

In every instance, the men responding to our survey reported a higher salary than the women.

The gender pay gap for agency writers

While all gaps need discussing, we must admit: the agency gap seems substantial. Does it ring true across the country?

We did some digging and found out the gender pay gaps at three UK-based creative agencies: Ogilvy & Mather, Wunderman Thompson UK, and GREY UK.

Gender pay gaps at top UK agencies revealed

By the way, as of 2017, companies with more the 250 employees in the UK must report gender pay gaps, and this information is all publicly available on the GOV.UK website.

All data was recorded from a snapshot on April 5th 2018 and you can find the full reports at the Gender Pay Gap Service.

That’s an average pay gap of 30.2%, which is close to our reported 29% gap from writers in agencies. But what’s happening elsewhere?

A national problem

According to data from the ONS, in 2019 the gender pay gap stood at 8.9% for all people in full-time employment in the UK.

Even in fields where women dominate, the gap remains substantial. The data showed women working full-time in roles that fall under ‘authors, writers and translators’ earn 16.9% less than men, despite women holding 60% of these roles.

And if you were to classify your professional writing as ‘sales, marketing, and related associate professionals’, then the gap still stands at 16.3%, with women holding 44% of these roles.

The figures show that the gender pay gap is still a major concern for everyone – whatever your specific area of writing.

The future of the gender pay gap

With fears that the coronavirus pandemic will impact the gender pay gap further, and the UK falling into recession again, what is the future of the gender pay gap?

In an interview with, Sara Willcocks, Head of Communications at charity Turn2Us talked about her fears of the pandemic widening the pay gap.

She said: “What we are seeing now with the pandemic is that women are being more adversely affected, either because of their role as the primary carer of their children, or because of the nature of the sectors they work in. Many of the short-term responses to the crisis are welcome, but there must be a longer-term plan to close the financial gender divide.”

As professional writers, how can we raise awareness of this and improve our own outcomes?

Follow Honor Clement-Hayes’ advice and make sure you use your voice in next year’s ProCopywriters Survey.


28th November 2020

Jennifer S

You write as if the “gender pay gap” theory is a fait accompli, no need for questions.
What about length and breadth of experience? What about talent? What about hours worked and profit made? In other words, does a CV count for zero now?
Is it simply a matter of counting beans?
Back in 2015 (or maybe 2016, I forget) when this theory first emerged, it was debunked by a female economist on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme. It then disappeared from the agenda, only to resurface again a year or so later with, it seemed, much more power (and finance?) behind it. But it’s still a steaming pile of unscientific garbage.

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