From 2017 onwards businesses employing 250 people or more must submit annual reports detailing the difference between the average earnings of men vs. their female counterparts in a bid to help address gender inequality.
The first wave of reporting was on 5th April, so any challenges around the logistics and practicalities of obtaining this data should already have been overcome (in theory!). However, the conversation doesn’t end here…
These are the thoughts and takeaways from the latest Reward & Mobility Think Tank held on Thursday 13th July and hosted by King’s David Barnes (Head of Reward). This Think Tank sought to discuss approaches to the “Gender Pay Gap Reporting: Data Interpretation, Presentation and Action”.
The following summary has been prepared to reflect a segment of the discussion held amongst senior Reward professionals from leading national and international businesses. Specific company details, experiences and examples have been omitted from this summary as all discussions are held under ‘Chatham House Rules’.
Presenting the Data to the Workforce, Business & External Market
Since the regulation has come into force businesses have changed their focus from “how do we collect this data?” to “how do we present this data to the employees and general public?”. And while businesses will have different results with their Gender Pay data, the numbers themselves will give more or less the same outcome – as it currently stands women are generally paid less than men and there are less women holding Senior Leadership positions.
One of the biggest questions is “when do we publish?” This is a timing issue that not enough people in the same organisation have the same opinion on. Do we take the lead and publish first, or do we let the dust settle and publish last?
When the data is captured in particular time periods it can quite heavily be skewed, for instance if the periods separate the general employees and the Execs (based on the Exec positions being dominated by men) the data will show a more favourable pay gap, whereas if the Exec community are included in with the general employees the gap will widen and will give the impression of a business becoming worse.
At the point of publishing, businesses know that the employees and the general public will be focused on one thing – the numbers. It’s key to remember that the data which gets published is a snapshot and can change significantly in any given time period. And as such there is obviously a balance to play in feeling the need to justify the figures and what will be seen as poor excuses by the general public and Media. However, as the data itself will exist in the public domain for the following three years, it should provide businesses with the time and room they need to improve on these figures year on year.
When you look at Global regulations around Gender Pay and Equal Pay, the way in which the data is captured and how accurate the data is can change. For instance some regions are very much against capturing individual’s data and won’t share this with the UK.
This is such a big topic that there are very few people who don’t know about it, and because of this the way in which candidates are approaching the interview process is changing. Through social media and other online communities there is an evolving view that candidates shouldn’t share their salary details with agencies or potential employers, the general opinion from the business side is that this doesn’t work nor does it help with the pay gap. If you’re interviewing for a job and have applied with blind salary information you have just as much chance of being offered less than you’re earning now, as you have of being offered an increase.
It’s imperative that organisations start at the beginning and approach obstacles one inch at a time, it will be impossible to achieve the balance needed to make everyone happy through publishing one set of data.
Developing a Supporting Narrative to Accompany the Data
Businesses and Reward teams shouldn’t be sitting on their hands when it comes to preparing a narrative and although there may be some difficult decisions to be made the narrative needs to be ready to publish with the data.
There is some mixed opinions on where the narrative or justification should end, it will be far too easy for businesses to allow themselves to layer the data with complex reasoning and try to divert attention away from the numbers. The best way to challenge this is to establish a committee which includes HR / Reward / Legal / Media, who can then define the balance.
Everyone agrees that businesses do need to make a change when it comes to balancing the difference in pay between men and women, however we do also need to take into consideration external factors that impact the population of male/female employees. For instance if you take the Fashion industry and the Building industry there is a huge gender imbalance between the male and female employee population which in turn has a big impact on the pay gap in varying gender dominated industries.
Internally, once the data has been published, the managers in the the business may need to have conversations with their team members around concerns or questions they might have. Prior to the data and narrative being released Managers should be supported so that they know how to deliver the right message in a consistent manner which aligns with the narrative. This support will most likely come in the form of workshops and training sessions.
In summary, when considering what your narrative will look like the best way to drive the agenda and changes is to have the full backing of the Exec community. If the leadership team isn’t bought into the journey it will soon become an uphill battle which no one will win.
Implementing Initiatives To Close the Pay Gap
We discussed ideas on how to close the gender pay gap and the points below covers the ideas shared:
- Job sharing – two part time employees
- Blind compensation process
- How aggressive genders are in asking for a pay rise or promotion
- Negotiation / soft skills training – L&D curriculum
- Manager training – to encourage conversations with employees on pay/performance and creating a comfortable environment to have these discussions
- Creating a sense of belonging (not which gender you are)
- Employees feeling like they’re being represented
- Appointing more females to the leadership team
- Gender neutral job adverts / conversations
- Blind offer generation (eliminate bias)
- Industry focused courses / training
- Diversity and Inclusion – focus more on gender
Measuring Success Moving Forward
Taking into consideration all of the factors that impact on achieving a like for like pay environment and accepting there won’t be a quick fix will make it difficult to effectively measure success, however we can can start making small changes that inch by inch will create a positive momentum.
Although organisations can make changes we also need to look at where the gender gap originates, in my own opinion this starts at home and in schools. All of us turn to social conformity from a young age and are unconsciously guided down a gender bias route, we need to intervene earlier to change these views and offer gender neutral careers.