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The Alchemy of Leadership Blog

Bridging the gender pay gap

gender pay gap

There was a great film on over the festive period early this year. “Made in Dagenham” told the story of a group of women in the Ford Motor Company plant in Essex as they fought for equal pay with their male counterparts. The tale, which was based on a true story in 1968, led to the Equal Pay Act of 1970.

In January 2018, Carrie Gracie resigned from her post with the BBC, in a protest about pay inequality. A journalist with 30 years’ experience, her male counterparts doing International Editors roles within the Corporation as she was, were earning at least 50% more than Gracie and her other female colleague. This, 50 years after the story that gave rise to the plot in “Made in Dagenham”.

The pay disparity amongst the ranks of the BBC’s ‘talent’ population was published back in July 2017. The highest paid woman in the list was Claudia Winkleman, in the £450,000-499,999 bracket. There were 5 men paid more than her, with the highest being Chris Evans in the £2,200,000-£2,249,999. Quite a difference.

And now, UK companies with more than 250 employees have to calculate and publish their gender pay gap data by April 2018.

Now – the gender pay gap is not the same as equal pay.

The gender pay gap measures the difference in average hourly earnings for men and women in an organisation. So, a company might have a gender pay gap if a majority of men are in senior, better paid jobs, despite paying male and female employees the same amount for similar roles. Easyjet is a good example, where pilots (who make up 25% of their employees) are very well rewarded, but only 6% are women. Women make up 69% of the Easyjet cabin crew population however – and they are paid considerably less than pilots, although the same as their male cabin crew colleagues.

Yet that is no reason not to be concerned about a disparity in pay. It is yet another indicator of the well-known fact that there aren’t enough women in senior roles in organisations. Deal with this as an issue and the gender pay gap should take care of itself in many cases. Easyjet have committed to a target of 20% female pilots as new entrants to the organisation by 2020 to help on this journey.

But the question remains, ‘What happens next?’ Publishing the data is one thing, but so what? It is the action plans to address these gaps which should be of most interest to governments and those interested in re-dressing this balance, and if the gap doesn’t improve, then perhaps some sort of sanction or penalty should be enforced.

For most organisations, building a better pipeline of female talent is the key. Many businesses are now insisting on ‘gender balanced’ shortlists for senior roles and that is undoubtedly helpful, but the real challenge is that the pool of senior female talent isn’t as large as it should be. The most enlightened organisations are addressing this by investing in their female talent at all levels of the business and supporting them as they prepare to make their transitions into more senior and better paid roles.

Last year, we at the School for CEOs, ran our first ‘All Female’ Runway  programme and it was a resounding success. Our external faculty speakers spoke about the challenges that women face in the workplace as their careers evolve and the programme really helped these women refine the development needed to help them step up to the next level. Later this month, we are running our first ‘All Female’ Runway programme for a cohort of women from a FTSE-100 business. Small steps towards gender pay equality, but as the saying goes, “A journey of 1000 miles starts with a single step.”

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