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.

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