Last Tuesday I attended a conference looking at the first year of UK Gender Pay Gap reporting, appraising it’s ‘success’ and looking ahead at what’s next. Nick Bishop, Head of Corporate Strategy, Golin, summed up THE business story of the year, ‘We’ve not had a comms event quite like this in my memory, touching so many people, the content more extreme & uncomfortable than expected.”
True, but I left Eversheds Sutherland’s lovely offices feeling reassured that my view matched the prevailing ‘expert’ view. Year 1 of reporting had broadly achieved its primary objective, successfully turning the UK’s attention (at last) to our unacceptable gender pay gap.
The reporting requirements and approach aren’t perfect, and we have a long road ahead but at least we’re past go. The speakers were first-class, action-oriented with highly relevant but varied backgrounds. I must mention Dr Jana Javornik, Director of Noon centre for Equality & Diversity in Business, University of East London who was an excellent chair, adding great humour, humanity and value to the proceedings.
Below I’ve sought to paraphrase some of the most impactful data points and summarise the best of the counsel for organisations and individuals alike. Forgive inaccuracies down to Chinese whispers of my note-taking. The momentum is here, there are experts aplenty and there really is no excuse for us not to make collective strides with each month. I’m excited, I hope you are too!
Sam Smethers, Chief Executive, The Fawcett Society
- GPG reporting hasn’t delivered transparency as I’ve often heard, not truly, but, it has started to give accountability and it has kick-started the conversation
- Main causes of the gender pay gaps; occupational & educational segregation (Jane’s two penneth; major wake-up call; biases start as early primary school where boys get more pocket money than girls so corrective action & training needs to start their too), vertical segregation (in organisations), poor quality part-time/flexible working roles
- What can organisations do? Look at recruitment and progression, sponsorship (more than mentoring), policy and practice (job design, leave, flexibility), challenge & change attitudes & address bias, leadership & role models, culture
- And the role of government? How about auto-enrolling girls for STEM subjects like we auto-enrol people for pensions, have organisations offer flexibility by default, longer and better paternal leave for fathers & better protection from pregnancy discrimination
- GPG Reporting – recommended next steps; separate full-time and part-time, include senior partners, decrease the threshold to organisations of 50 not 250, include ethnicity and finally, deeper sectoral analysis & solutions
“Wake-up call! Gender biases start as early as primary school so corrective action needs to start their too.”
Nick Bishop, Head of Corporate Strategy, Golin
- To their credit, most businesses have not sought to deflect from the scale of their data
- What now? Some organisations maybe had adopted the attitude that ‘well it’s only once a year, there’s loads of bad data out there let’s just bury ourselves in the midst of the pack’, BUT I don’t think that will represent the majority
- I believe the media will continue to go to town on the data like they have on tax evaders and employees won’t like organisations that don’t take responsibility and take action. There is activism on the shop floor which will keep this story in the headlines and keep organisations focused on positive action
“So far we have an impressive 95% compliance but those organisations who do not report could potentially face an unlimited fine”
Joanne Gregson, Equality & Human Rights Commission (The Enforcer!)
- For those organisations who have not reported, there are many complex steps to work through, but they could potentially be subject to an unlimited fine
- So far, we’ve had 95% compliance – positive for a first year
- Construction and finance were the two worst performing sectors. Arts and media were the best performing
- There’s a major new initiative called ‘Working Forward’, to make workplaces the best they can be for pregnant women and new parents (Jane’s two penneth – I am a huge advocate of such positive, practical schemes. Employers take note)
Sarah Jackson, Chief Executive, Working Families
- Letting men slow down might just be the answer to the gender pay gap
- Men are now making career choices that women have made for years i.e. planning for longer periods of leave, wanting more flexibility, to be more ‘present’ in family lives – we should now recognise the parenthood penalty not the motherhood penalty
- Must think about money AND time as a dual currency in terms of workplace negotiation and choices
- There’s so often a gap between a company’s policy on flexible working and the practice & flexible working doesn’t always mean you achieve work-life balance
- So, what should we be doing? 1) Create great culture 2) Eliminate the parenthood penalty 3) get serious about flexible working (see Happy to Talk Flexible Working campaign)
Dr Sarah Peers, Vice-President, Women’s Engineering Society
- How can we tackle GPG in STEM? 1) Totally transparent pay structures 2) pay based on the role NOT the time in role (similarly do not ask at hiring stage what is your current salary?) 3) empowering networks (collective voices including men)
Patrick Woodman of the Chartered Management Institute shared some sobering stats to help shape our understanding of the profile of the gap. There is a 26.8% gender pay gap at manager level specifically, and, I hope you’re sat down, a gender bonus gap of 83% for at CEO level!! Those of you who know me will know I’m an optimist so I remain buoyed by our position in year one of reporting BUT there is one helluva mountain to climb still. Sure, there are potential improvements to the make-up of the reporting requirements, yes there are some deep seated societal biases to chip away at, but I agree with Patrick, ‘what get measured, gets managed.’
What are we waiting for?! Let’s get things moving!