By Teresa Boughey – May/June 2019
The gender pay gap has been extensively documented across the press and social media, especially over the past month as the deadline for public sector companies with over 250 employees to submit their gender pay gap figures was the 30th March 2019 and the deadline for charities and companies was by midnight on the 4th April 2019.
With the year two figures now emerging, it is becoming apparent that instead of the gap narrowing, which many initially thought would happen when it was introduced, it has actually widened, with 45% of respondents reporting an increase in pay in favour of men according to the BBC.
However, it is also important to note that there has been a small reduction in the median pay gap from 9.7% to 9.6%. So how can organisations utilise this data, even if is disappointing or uncomfortable?
Taking stock is the first step
It actually is not surprising that these gaps are widening now they are being placed under the spotlight. Whilst this transparency is a step in the right direction, it can lull organisations into a false sense of security by feeling like they are actually doing something to further their inclusivity by simply publishing their figures. Some will completely avoid tackling these figures out of disappointment or embarrassment. All businesses need to use these figures to truly take stock of their current position – this may be an initial uncomfortable truth, but without it the same detrimental pattern will continue year-on-year.
It is certainly tempting to implement a policy to mitigate the immediate effects; however adequate time should be spent analysing the root causes- do you have an accommodating flexible working offering? Do women and men feel comfortable taking parental leave? Do your processes harbour unconscious biases?
Analyse who is taking up what is offered, and who is not. Instead of viewing these year two figures as a setback, take heed of the patterns that are appearing.
The importance of narratives
Furthermore, organisations should also commit to publishing a narrative around these figures to situate them within the wider policies or initiatives taking place. The gender pay gap is not something which will be fixed overnight and many of the strategies to combat this will take several cycles to fully take hold. By also describing what policies are being implemented to try and lessen the gap, all stakeholders will be able to see the great work that is beginning to take place which may otherwise be hidden by the figures.
It needs a fully integrated approach
The gender pay gap requires more than a single, well-publicised initiative – its effects bleed into other areas including the initial recruitment process, working hours, parental leave and reward strategies. To truly tackle this issue, a holistic approach is required that not only encapsulates gender pay but creates a wholly inclusive culture. Whilst the pay gap still exists, whether this be gender or ethnicity, no business can call themselves truly inclusive.
For a workplace to truly address disparity they need to recognise the importance of everyone in this capacity – not just a D&I professional or the leadership team. Whilst it is true that the leadership need to be implementing strategies from the top and modelling expected behaviours; employees should also be able to voice their ideas and concerns. An inclusive strategy will only have a lasting impact if everyone is on boar; united by the common goal and collectively celebrating all the successes along the way as well as recognising and valuing the unique difference which everyone brings.
The increasing spotlight on gender pay gives organisations a prime chance to step up and show their stakeholders the policies they are integrating into their workplace to not only eliminate the gap in pay, but also raise the diversity and inclusivity of the workplace as a whole. With this holistic, sustainable approach, any business can not only give a voice to everyone in the workplace, but they can also reap the business benefits that accompany a diverse talent pool.
About the author
Teresa Boughey MA FCIPD is CEO of award-winning Jungle HR and the author of Closing the Gap – 5 steps to creating an Inclusive Culture which enables organisations to create inclusive workplace cultures.