• Trish Driver

Closing the gender pay gap

Updated: Jan 30, 2019

Wednesday 4th April 2018 was gender pay gap day — the date by which organisations in the UK with a workforce of over 250 people had to report on their gender pay gap. For the uninitiated, the “Gender Pay Gap” measurement is the difference between median gross hourly earnings for men and women within an organisation (not to be confused with Equal pay legislation, which refers to the parity in payment between genders for the same work. If you want a nice pithy explanation, this article on explains it neatly).

I’ve heard a lot of debate about whether the gender pay gap is important, given that we’ve had Equal Pay legislation in place for 48 years now (unbelievably, the Equal Pay Act came into force in 1970). My opinion? This legislation is enormously important. It’s the imperative for businesses in the UK to accelerate the cultural change which has been cranking into gear over a number of years. The gender pay gap is exacerbated where organisations are male-dominated in their upper echelons (clue: it’s most of them — in the UK, in 2016, you were more likely to be a CEO of a FTSE 100 company if your name was Dave or Steve than if you were a woman). The advent of Gender Pay Gap (GPG) reporting means there is literally nowhere to hide — it’s very obvious now where the problems are, and continued reporting will mean that organisations have to make significant changes to address the gap.

There’s no quick fix — organisations have to implement a coherent and considered plan to shift their culture and rebalance from the top down. Starting to even out gender ratios at the bottom of an organization will create a better gender balance, and in the long term, with the right retention and development policies, may address the challenge, but will not address the pay gap in the short-term. In fact it’s likely to make things much worse — if you have an even number of lower paid employees, the female cohort will influence the gender pay gap further up where the ratios are skewed in favour of men.

So what can organisations do to begin the journey towards reducing their gender pay gap? For a number of businesses, the beginning and end of this journey is the instruction to “hire more senior women”. The reality however is that our culture in the UK gives a small pool to fish from, with years of working culture stereotypes (referred to in this Guardian video as reminiscent of a set up which works for 1952) taking us to a place where just 22% of board executives are women. To seize the opportunity provided by GPG reporting, now is the time to change the thinking about how we re-balance organisations:

1. Unbiasing: if we accept that a change of mindset is the single highest impact activity which will make the change here, then enabling organisations to become more aware of unconscious bias as a concept is absolutely critical. As human beings, we’re genetically predisposed towards bias. It’s a survival mechanism, which perfectly fulfills its objective of keeping us safe, but can be extremely damaging when it comes to preventing us from challenging organizational cultural norms. In the course of my work I’ve witnessed the lightbulb moments of people starting to realize their biases and the impacts they have — it’s powerful stuff.

2. Thinking more broadly about who we are hiring: Once the biases (individually and organisationally) are out in the open, the conversations about how and who we hire can shift. If our biases are allowed to continue to run unchecked through our recruitment processes, nothing will change with the end result (Albert Einstein is broadly credited with exclaiming “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”). Opening up mindsets and conversations means that we can think differently about the way we articulate EVP, branding, criteria for selection processes and candidate experience. All of this enables a challenge to accepted organizational cultural norms which act as such a dramatic limiter on talent pools.

3. Focus on talent development and retention at all levels of the organization. There is absolutely no point in getting the front end of the recruitment funnel to a state of perfection if the culture within doesn’t celebrate the talent in the organization, and work through the challenges which stop the brilliant women you’ve found from rising to the top.

None of these are easy fixes. If they were, then we wouldn’t be in a situation where 8/10 UK organisations pay men more than women (The Guardian, 4 April 2018). But the good news is that all an organisation needs to make a start is the desire to change, the curiosity to understand the challenge, and the tenacity to start doing things differently. So how brave do you feel? If your organisation has the desire to change, and wants some support to make a difference, we can help - get in touch with - we'd love to talk!

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