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LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Women in some of Britain's leading financial companies receive around 80 percent less in bonus and performance-linked pay than their male colleagues, the country's equality watchdog said on Monday.
A survey of 50 finance firms found that women earned an average of 2,875 pounds ($4,712) a year in performance pay compared to 14,550 pounds for men, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said.
There was also a 39 percent gap between women and men in annual basic pay, rising to 47 percent when bonuses and other additional payments were added.
"The finance sector has one of the highest overall gender pay gaps in the UK economy," the commission said.
It said women working full-time in the finance firms surveyed earned 55 percent less annual gross salary than men, compared to a pay gap of 28 percent for the economy generally.
"The financial sector has the potential to play a central role in Britain's recovery. But it has to address this shocking disparity of rewards," said EHRC Chairman Trevor Phillips.
The sector's age profile could be a factor in holding back women, the commission said.
"An unusually high proportion of workers in the sector fall into the 25-39 age group -- the age at which women tend to have childcare responsibilities."
The British Bankers' Association said big payouts were made to a relatively small number of people and that part of the gender pay gap in finance was due to lifestyle choices made by women.
"In general, women tend to be attracted to areas such as retail banking, fund management, insurance and other functions where people skills are at a premium -- these, traditionally, do not attract the higher bonuses," the BBA said.
"Women also often make different choices when it comes to balancing work and home life. The industry employs proportionately quite young people and this too can have an impact on salaries as it clashes with those years when more women than men take time out to look after children."
Reporting by Tim Castle; Editing by Steve Addison