Gender Pay Gap Disclosure: How Transparency Can Lead to Change

The following post is courtesy of our board member Natalie Bickford,  Group HR Director at Merlin Entertainments PLC.

In 2018, UK legislation came into force, requiring companies with more than 250 employees to publish gender pay information, publicly on their websites. Over the last decade, the government has encouraged companies to do more to develop and retain their female employees, but now they are getting tougher on getting businesses to drive change.

The reporting of the mean and median gender pay gap by all British companies over the last few months has been great fodder for the media. Headlines highlight that (gasp…) “78% of companies pay men more than women”, and “men make up the majority of higher paid jobs”. Particular publicly listed companies have been hauled over the coals, especially those in industries with the biggest pay gap, including the financial and insurance sectors, with a pay gap of 35.6%, and the airline industry, with EasyJet, for example, highlighted with a gender pay gap of 52%.

Not really much of a surprise, when we know that significantly more women than men in the UK undertake lower paid and more part time work across the economy. And that at senior levels of publicly listed companies, the large majority of CEOs and Executive Board members are men. In actual fact, there are still more CEOs called John, than there are female CEOs in the UK FTSE 100.

And unlike equal pay, the gender pay gap has no quick fix. To really start to close the gap organizations need to develop and grow their female employees into more senior and better paid jobs. If the airline industry wants to reduce pay differentials, they need to hire and train more female pilots and less female cabin-crew. Banks will have to find ways to bring women who have left the sector to raise families back into the business, and entice them with flexible work practices and female focused development programs. All companies must take a look at their hiring and promotion practices, consider the impact of unconscious bias on their decision making, and quite frankly, rethink the traditional approach to career progression.

Government also has an ongoing role to play, in creating legislation, but also in finding ways to subsidize high quality childcare to give parents genuine choices around balancing family with work. This has been the significant underpin to the success of Nordic countries in driving gender diversity into their boardrooms, and as a result reaping the ensuing economic rewards.

So, for all that the gender pay gap disclosure is another piece of red-tape for UK businesses to report on, I for one, think that it will be a catalyst that will eventually lead us to start changing the way we do things around here.

One thought on “Gender Pay Gap Disclosure: How Transparency Can Lead to Change

  1. This issue is more challenging than we usually want to accept. In the early days of fair pay men were paid more than women for equal work (and married men might be paid more than single men for equal work) — that was reasonably easy to fix and we’ve done so.

    Now one of the main reasons for an overall discrepancy in pay is that women are more likely than men to put children ahead of career. If we want to reduce the pay gap we need to convince women not to take time off to raise children and instead let their husband do so. This means many more women embracing the idea of being the main breadwinner while many more men embrace the role of raising children and managing the home.

    In the past it would be hard to find a man keen on this role, but I suspect many low-end service workers, men pursuing hobby careers (e.g. musician) or men who are unemployed would be entirely willing to give up pursuing a corporate career if they knew they had a wife who would support them financially.

    This puts corporations in the tough spot of telling people how to run their lives because as long as more women then men put children before career the pay gap will persist.

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