All companies employing more than 250 employees are now legally required to publish the difference in earnings between men and women. This year’s data makes for depressing reading. The overall average difference is 9.6% with the improvement compared to last year a mere 0.1%. For some sectors (and in some specific organisations) the difference is far greater.
How the figures are calculated.
The Government’s website states: ‘The gender pay gap is the difference in the average hourly wage of all men and women across a workforce. If women do more of the less well paid jobs within an organisation than men, the gender pay gap is usually bigger’.
The Gender Pay Gap is not the same as equal pay, where men and women are paid the same for doing the same job. It is the difference between the average salaries of men and women in an organisation. An organisation may pay men and women in the same role the same wage but still have a gender pay gap, for example if most of their senior positions are occupied by men who earn more.
No room at the top?
The Guardian says ‘Slow progress is also reflected in the proportion of women getting top paid jobs in British businesses. In 2017 women made up 37% of the top quartile of earners, that figure inched ahead to 38% in 2018.’
At a time when the average earning differential between male and female graduates nationally in the UK is at least £2,000, this means at the very start of their career many women start at a financial disadvantage. When the financial impact of childcare is factored in, which in most cases still falls to women, this erodes earnings further still.
Clearly a number of substantial changes are required in order to address this persistent and pernicious inequality.
Make the commitment to change visible.
Structural changes are required from the very start of the recruitment and selection process. Marketing materials need to represent diversity in order to broaden the pool of applicants as well as to demonstrate organisational commitment to change. If women cannot ‘see’ themselves within an organisation they will be less likely to do apply. The Technology industry in particular is seen and known as a male-dominated sector which many women find a turn-off. Sending female employees to careers events would represent a positive move. Making more effort to show how the skills women can bring to the Tech sector would enhance it is another. Women can struggle to see that the skills they have are valuable and relevant to the sector and the sector needs to try harder to make the working environment appealing in order to attract applicants. Failing to address this issue will perpetuate stereotypical career choices and impact on the continuing growth and success of the sector.
Mind your language
Attracting applicants at the first stage of the recruitment and selection process is more than visibility. If the language used in advertisements does not resonate with women as well as men then they will be less likely to apply. Those companies that do not consider the words they use risk alienating 50% of their potential applicants.
People Management reported on a study of 77,000 job adverts conducted by Totaljobs and reviewed against research from Waterloo and Duke Universities in the US.
The study found that gender-biased language was often used to describe traditional ‘alpha male’ roles, and could dissuade those who did not identify with the job description from applying.
The most commonly use male-biased words in adverts were: lead, analyse, competitive, active and confident. In contrast, adverts that sought softer skills were unconsciously slanted towards women, deploying words such as; support, responsible, understanding, dependable and committed.
The study also found stark regional differences in gender-biased job descriptions. London was found to have the most male-biased language, which covered 47 per cent of job adverts. Manchester was found to be the most gender-neutral city, with 16 per cent of adverts deemed to be gender-neutral and the remainder evenly split between male and female-biased language. Guidelines on writing job advertisements and Job Descriptions and Person Specifications are clearly needed.
Make the workplace more welcoming
Peter Drucker famously said ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast,’ so what about the workplace environment, where habitual behaviours are ingrained, where company culture is deep-rooted and unintentionally (and also sometimes intentionally) misogynist?
Many financial services organisations have signed up to the Women in Finance Charter initiated by HM Treasury. As they should; gender imbalance is shameful within the Financial Sector with a 23% average difference in earnings, with some individual institutions significantly higher than this. The Charter includes a pledge to support the progression of women into senior roles and a member of the senior executive team to be responsible and accountable for gender diversity and inclusion. However the Pledge reads more as a series good intentions than a serious commitment to affirmative action.
Some companies will struggle to recruit talented women
Ironically, now the data are available, many women, including students about to graduate, will be scrutinising the figures to check out which companies have better records, are potentially more female-friendly and therefore more likely to enable them to progress as well as earn more. If companies are not proactive and public about the steps they are taking to address their gender pay gap, this will simply exacerbate the divide as more women choose to take their talents elsewhere.
Companies who are able to demonstrate what they have done or are doing to close their gender pay gap may be more likely to attract and retain female hires. SME’s who are not required to report but who can nonetheless demonstrate greater equality of pay and who promote this, may find it easier to attract female talent.
It is possible to find out exactly how the large firms you may be considering are performing, by using the BBCs Gender Pay Gap Calculator and entering the organisation’s name.
The Guardian provides a snapshot of different sectors and The Economist compares salaries by role if you are working or about to start working- and provides some useful tips on how to negotiate your salary.
Ask the awkward question – and look for evidence of good practice
For those of you wanting to know what steps recruiters you are contemplating working for are taking, why not ask them when you meet them on campus at careers events? Look for evidence of at least some of the following: blind recruitment, staff training and development, provision of mentors, of talent development initiatives, specific programmes to address workplace culture, attention to intersectionality and opportunities for flexible working.
Ultimately for any real progress to be made in addressing the Gender Pay Gap, recruiters need to commit to action. As Feminist Emily Pankhurst said: ‘Deeds not words.’