WE ALL know that women are disadvantaged by the gender pay gap, but have you ever considered the impact this will have on people in the later stages of life?

It stands to reason that those earning less are far more likely to be saving less towards their pension, but research carried out by law firm Pinsent Masons alongside gender equality charity the Fawcett Society suggests that is not the only reason that women face more penurious retirements than men.

Auto-enrolment has been a great leveller in terms of membership of workplace pensions and while the research found that women were only slightly less likely to be contributing to such schemes than men - with the difference possibly being due to part-time female workers not meeting the auto-enrolment salary threshold - they were half as likely to be paying into a personal pension.

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Unsurprisingly, this impacts on the amount they have managed to save, with the research finding that the median amount women have in their pension pots is £28,000 while for men it is £40,000.

To top it all off, as women generally live longer than men they can expect to pay more for their care in later life, with their smaller pension pots having to fund average care costs of £132,000 compared with the average cost for a man of £82,000.

From a retirement savings point of view, Fawcett Society chief executive Sam Smethers says that women in general face being in a worse financial position than men in later life because “the risks they face are both more numerous and may overlay one upon another”.

“Risks such as a lower starting salary when they enter work, a wider pay gap after they have their first baby or take time out to care for a relative, unequal split of assets on divorce, childcare costs treated as her cost not as a household spend, and a longer period of time living with multiple health conditions in later life,” she says.

Perhaps even more significantly, as Pinsent Masons partner Carolyn Saunders points out, is the fact that “women’s attitudes and priorities when considering their financial futures differ from those of men”.

Indeed, women are, says Smethers, “less likely to engage with financial products and are less confident with the financial decisions they make”.

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development women are more likely than men to answer “don’t know” to financial literacy questions. This impacts on the amount of risk they are willing to take on to grow their wealth, with women far more likely to leave their pensions invested in low risk - and so by definition low return - investments.

Worse still, the Pinsent Masons research suggests that even if they do seek professional advice on how to invest their assets, the fact that the financial world remains so male dominated results in many women unconsciously adopting stereotypical attitudes towards managing their wealth.

“The evidence that women are more averse to competition and to risk across different domains also finds that aversion fades when what is termed ‘stereotype threat’ is reduced,” the report says.

“Stereotype threat is the idea that reminding a person of pre-existing stereotypes about a person’s characteristics, in this case their gender, even when it is subtle, can provoke them to behave stereotypically.

“This suggests a theoretical basis for the possibility that women using female financial advisers may be less inclined to behave in a risk-averse way.”

Angie Taylor of Glasgow-based advisory business Independent Financial Advice World agrees and points out that female clients tend to feel more comfortable when speaking to female advisers and so are more likely to ask the questions that result in them making more adventurous investment decisions.

However, she points out that another stereotype - that of the pinstripe-suited, bowler-hatted banker - is stopping that from happening because it holds women back from pursuing a career in finance.

“There’s an issue with women seeking advice but there’s also a supply and demand situation where there is demand but not supply,” Taylor says.

“I go to investment seminars a lot and no more than 10 per cent of the people there are female - it’s very much a male dominated industry.

“Things have moved on so much in the last 20 to 30 years but it hasn’t moved enough. There’s so much more work to be done to make women feel more comfortable [about seeking financial advice].”

The problem is that waiting for enough females to enter the financial world to redress the gender balance will take years - years during which the financial gender gap will continue to widen.

In the meantime, if women do want to make sure their savings work as hard as possible to last them through retirement they may just have to face the stereotypes face on.

It could turn out to be a positive learning experience for everyone.