By Zara Nanu, CEO, Gapsquare & Siân Webb, Partnerships Manager, Gapsquare

Since the gender pay gap reporting regulations came in at the beginning of April, there has been criticism that the regulations “don’t go far enough”, that they will “backfire” or will not be effective. Some groups have even come out to say that the gender pay gap does not exist and therefore regulations are not needed.

As an initial point, the regulations can start some key discussions about their gender pay gap within companies. In turn, this will create some questions on its impact on overall gender equality in the workplace.

In my book, the gender pay gap should be counted only looking at men and women doing the same role

If we are only looking at men and women doing the same role, and women are being paid less than men, then this is an Equal Pay issue, and grounds for Equal Pay discrimination as per the 1970 Act.

But what the gender pay gap is really about is the beginning of a narrative about workplaces’ practices that undervalue the roles of women both in the public and private sphere. The fact that the gender pay gap exists in companies can open our eyes to how the company is structured and how it supports true equality within the workplace.

This discourse opens the door to many possibilities that begin to paint a picture of some key issues facing women in the workplace today.

Parenting – in the current context motherhood
Many women choose to work part-time after having children

Initial analysis of not just our data at Gapsquare, but national statistics show that the gender pay gap increases for women as they hit their thirties and start taking time off to raise children. Women are still expected to be the primary caregiver for the raising of children, which undoubtedly sets them slightly further back on their career path than that of the equivalent man.

Critics may argue here that it is woman’s choice to work part-time after having children. Looking at raw data, we can see that there still is a pay gap for part-time work, despite the fact that research tells us that when employees work part-time, it is often more efficient.

What becomes key therefore is understanding the gender pay gap through the prism of hourly rates of part-time workers and age. Our tool at Gapsquare allows for companies to look at comparative trends and understand the issues behind the gender pay gap and think about recommendations for change so that part-time workers, and mothers are better (and when I say better, I mean equally) valued when returning to the workplace.

Occupational Segregation
Looking at the gender pay gap within companies does not address occupational sex segregation by type of company

On a basic level, the regulatory reporting does not ask companies to report on occupational sex segregation, e.g. more men work in science and technology departments than women. But start asking questions about your gender pay gap and it might provide some answers. Interesting, an article in Fortune recently stated research that claims that it is not just that men make the choice to work in these types of higher-paying industries, but rather that male-dominated industries pay more because their workforce is predominantly men. Studies have shown that, as women enter into a field, the pay begins to drop.

3. The Glass Ceiling

The gender pay gap reporting requires companies to publish their workforce pay composition (the proportion of men and women) divided into four equal pay quartiles. Here you can expressly see if there are a clustering of women in low paid roles, if there are enough women as middle managers, and if the glass ceiling exists in your organisation. A lack of women in the higher pay quartiles shows how much work a company has to do to have better representation at board level, and in terms of retention and promotion of women throughout the organisation. Our tool at Gapsquare can then go one step further, and you can look at the distribution of men and women in terms of pay quartiles by department, by location, by age, and even by ethnicity so that as a company you can really drill down on what the data is showing you and put in place not just a narrative explaining your gender pay gap, but recommendations about how are you going to address key equality issues within the workplace.

The published data won’t be sufficient to paint an accurate picture of whether there is an imbalance in pay between men and women doing exactly the same job

Yes this point still technically remains true. Looking at a snapshot of a companies’ gender pay gap and bonus gap doesn’t tell you about whether there is an imbalance in pay, but the gender pay gap regulations are a great place to start, and a springboard in addressing true equality within the workplace.

At Gapsquare, we have made it really easy for companies to go beyond mere statutory compliance, and further, reporting just on the figures could be dangerous if it doesn’t come with accompanying narrative. I agree that the trick is “look beyond the numbers” and companies have got a chance to seize the opportunity and understand what is going on within their organisation, and champion issues that can place them head and shoulders above their competitors.

The regulatory snapshot can still tell a lot about gender equality in terms of pay. It provides us with the beginning of a whole narrative around inequality, discrimination and stereotyping within the workplace which we are in a unique position to analyse, address and champion to make the UK a beacon in how we tackle workplace equality.

Watch Zara Nanu discuss these issues in depth at the recent Gender Pay Gap: Managing the Regulations seminar.

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