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“Mind the gap”… again! The Gender Pay Difference 3 years on

Author: Alex Hall

Published date: 2020/04

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Cast your minds back to the summer of 2017. The BBC had just announced the pay of its top tier of talent and the nation collectively gasped at the salaries.

I, like most people at the time, reflected on my own career decisions “Why on earth didn’t I pursue my dream of becoming a football pundit…. Two hours work every Saturday night and watch footy all day could have earned me millions!

Instead, it was Gary Lineker sat atop the crazy money charts. The real issue, however, was not just "how much does Gary earn?" but the glaring lack of females on the list.

The report on salaries by the BBC three years ago got the nation talking and re-ignited the debate on gender salary disparity in business.

How can it be that men are paid more than women and in some cases when both are employed to do the same job?

We rightly called outrage and BBC soon enough responded announcing that some of their biggest male stars agreed to pay cuts. Sadly this wasn’t just a BBC problem. It transpired that the gender pay gap at the BBC was 9.3% against a national average of 18.1%.

It would sadly take more than Gary Lineker to take a pay cut to fix the issue!

Fast forward three years and the question remains. What has been done and is it still a case of “MIND THE GAP?!”

The government recently decided to relax this year’s gender pay gap reporting deadline, understandable given most of the nation’s businesses are currently locked down due to the current pandemic. This decision has temporarily denied us of seeing 2019/20 figures in full but I think it is safe to conclude that we won’t see too many positives that suggest we have done anything to close the gender pay gap.

Why? Well, we only need to look closely at last year’s analysis by the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) to see that it feels like a wasted few years of avoidance and inaction from businesses up and down the country.

The report mostly made for grim reading, particularly in our region (South East.)

Top headlines of the 2019 report were:

- “The median figure has got slightly worse! 9.2% up to 9.6%

- The proportion of organisations paying women less than men has got slightly worse, increasing from 77.10% to 77.79%

- The median is lowest in Scotland at 5.7% The South-East the highest standing at 11%. London’s gap is 10.4%.”

At Cooper Lomaz, we also reported on the topic last year for our Recruitment Trends and Salary Survey Guide.

The standout figure from the regional focused data we collated last year revealed that statistically “September 19th was the day when the average woman in the technical and professional sectors in our region stops earning a yearly salary in comparison to men in the same sector.” We felt the big cause of this being that only 8% of women we surveyed earned more than £50,000 per annum.

Three years on and it is time to re-ignite the debate as far as I am concerned. Coronavirus can’t be used for an excuse for the last few years.

Once we are all back in BAU (hopefully very soon!), we need to be asking what more can be done. For me, it is not about asking the Gary Linekers of your organisation to take a pay cut.

Employers must get pro-active and start making basic strides forward.

A few examples to note below...

- Awareness and transparency of salaries at entry-level. The gap here between men and women is significantly disparate.

- Quota systems at interviews for all board-level vacancies. What is stopping employers from interviewing at least one female candidate? (See America’s Rooney rule for comparison on ethnic diversity at in Sport)

- Greater support and flexibility for women who want to start a family whilst in employment. Inroads have already been made in shared parental leave etc. but worth noting the gender pay gap widens dramatically after women have children.

- Skill-based assessment task in interviews – removes subconscious bias.

- And lastly, and not necessarily aimed at employers, but the wider promotion of women in STEM subjects and a more flexible curriculum in the education system.

The future currently looks ominous unless we act now.

Early forecasting on the impact of Coronavirus shows us that it (the virus) “stands to have a disproportionate impact on women in the labour market because of the high proportion of women working in retail and hospitality”.

These two sectors, as we know, will almost certainly be the two worst affected by the pandemic. One positive, however, may be changes to our working schedule in a post-Covid-19 world.

Will we be more receptiveness towards working from home?

Will flexible working benefit women who require work-life balance with families?

Ultimately, I am not the least bit surprised by last year’s pay reports and this year's predictions. I thought at the time and I certainly believe it still today that the gender pay gap will have to get worse before it gets better.

I have seen first-hand talking to many of our regions clients that want to positively impact change, however, the chronic lack of females in board rooms and senior positions can’t be fixed overnight. What we are currently seeing is an openness for hiring more women but at the entry-level and lower-salaried positions in the vast majority of cases.

Peter Cheese, chief executive of the CIPD calls this “building a pipeline of female talent”.

Despite some progress over the last three years, unfortunately, it does seem we still have far more to do to “bridge the gap” once and for all.

I would love to hear about success stories from the businesses in our region on reducing the gender pay gap.

Do you have data for your business already for this year?

Have you implemented clear strategies to combat and bridge the gap?

Do drop me your thoughts below at AHall@cooperlomaz.co.uk.

Let's get talking about this again!