Event In Review: Mind The Gender Pay Gap

Kevin and Melanie introducing the day

We started the morning with an introduction from our Director, Kevin O’Brien and our Marketing Executive, Melanie Beckham. They ran through the agenda for the day and gave a short snapshot of the current state of the gender pay gap.

I’m sure you’re aware, as of 2017, organisations with over 250 employees are legally required to report on their gender pay gap. As it stands in the UK, nearly 8 in 10 businesses pay men more than women. Evidently, the reporting was introduced in an effort to shine a light on the issue and to hold businesses publicly accountable for improving their pay gap.

However, this hasn’t been the reality. Less than 10% of organisations have acted as a result of publishing their gender pay gap data. Many businesses have stated that progress is ongoing and have highlighted the initiatives they have in place to reduce their gap. Albeit, we’re not much closer to closing the gap than we were a few years ago.

Guest Speaker: Michelle Gymiah

Our expert guest speaker, Michelle Gyimah from Equality Pays, then presented. Michelle gave a thorough explanation of where the UK currently stands, and which industries and sectors have the largest gaps. Michelle then discussed how important the data has become in terms of its influence on career decisions at all levels.

Michelle then outlined the key characteristics of creating a meaningful action plan, for example tapping into your shared values, understanding your demographic, authenticity and more.

Michelle also shared anonymous examples of the types of tactics organisations she has worked with have implemented and their success rate.

Mark and Gemma presenting

Gemma Shambler and Mark Thompson from The Happiness Index then discussed the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace. They touched on initiatives they have experienced or implemented that have ensured a zero gender pay gap. These included pay transparency, childcare facilities at work and flexible working for women and men, to name a few.

Our fantastic panelists were then tasked with de-mystifying the Gender Pay Gap, by explaining how their organisations are trying to reduce their gap and the challenges they’ve faced throughout the process.

Some of the topics that Michelle Sequeira from Mercer, Kenneth Pennington from SITA, Andrea Bunbury from BDO, David Tetlow from British Red Cross, Verena Hefti from Leaders Plus and Steve Whitehead from London Borough of Hounslow covered were:

  • Their current gaps and the strategies they’ve implemented to reduce it
  • How much reward and compensation affect the gender pay gap
  • Whether sanctions should be imposed on those who fail to submit or submit mathematically impossible data and what those should be
  • Whether the gender pay gap is enough or should the focus be much broader and encompass closing all existing pay gaps and what new challenges this would bring
  • Why the pay gap is larger for part-time employees
  • How to communicate gender pay gap results to the rest of the business, especially if they’re negative and how to get employees to buy into the initiatives you want to pursue

Key Takeaways:

The complexity of the issue

If there was one major take away from the day, it would be just how complex the issue of the gender pay gap is. We discussed the possible contributors to the gap, what needs to be done to improve it and the components of a long-term action plan. However, as the discussion unfolded it became glaringly evident just how different every organisation is.

Some had issues where all of their lower-level employees were women, as no men were applying for these jobs due to the flexibility it offered and the type of work. Therefore, they could focus on getting more women in top management positions however their pay gap would take a long time to correct, as nearly all of their lowest-paid jobs were occupied by women.

Another organisation has fantastic employee engagement and progression opportunities, therefore many of their employees stay for a long time, as they try to promote from within. So when they do hire externally, which isn’t that often, they were mostly hiring men as they needed a certain skill set which was usually acquired in the military. So they needed to come up with a solution whereby more women would be able to apply for their jobs. They decided to broaden the industry experience required and as a result have successfully increased the number of women they have hired. However as their external hires are quite infrequent, it will take them quite some time to reduce their gap.

Ultimately, organisations face different challenges when trying to close their gap and it’s definitely not a quick fix. It will take years to see a dramatic change however it’s important that businesses are beginning now.

The link between Employee Engagement and The Gender Pay Gap

It also came to light that new legislation has been introduced whereby in January 2020 businesses will be required to report on their employee engagement data. Businesses will be required to report on the action taken during the year to introduce, maintain and develop employee engagement. This involves whether employees have been provided with all of the necessary information pertinent to them. That employees are consulted on issues that will impact them and the business, on a regular basis. Also, that employees are encouraged to be invested in the company’s performance. Ultimately the reporting must summarise how the directors have engaged with their employees and their regard for their employee’s interests.

The Happiness Index posed the question of whether gender pay gap reporting will ever be interlinked with employee engagement reporting in the future. At its core, employee engagement is the principle of treating all employees with respect, in a fair and engaging manner. It involves looking out for the people that work for you and ensuring that they are happy and satisfied. Therefore, there may be a strong correlation between no or a small gender pay gap and high employee engagement. So this could be something to look out for in the future..

What attendees found most useful:

The key message that I took away was that there are several options that will enable women to progress in their roles, including working from home, shared parental leave and reassessing job requirements such as ‘x number of years’ experience required’.

I learnt just how complex the GPG is at the moment and how there are so many different obstacles before ‘equality’ can be achieved. I found hearing how different industries can have completely different approaches to the same issue really interesting.

I found it interesting to see the shocking difference in gender pay gap in different industries and countries. I also found it interesting to see the clear impact gender pay has on retention and recruitment and enjoyed the discussion around changing legislation and penalties for failing to submit gender pay reports. 

Thanks so much for inviting me. I found the event really useful, really enlightening and it was really good to be able to speak and hear really candid and honest conversations from employers on what they are doing around closing the pay gap.

The event highlighted that companies need to be open and honest about their pay gap and the reasons for it, otherwise it will have an adverse effect.

I think that it is important to obtain a greater understanding of how evident the gender pay gap is in organisations, so that the correct methods of resolution can be put in place. The event was a great opportunity for individuals to share ideas and experiences, so that everyone could take away learnings from one another.

If you’d like to attend our next event, be sure to get in touch: contact@williams-kent.com.


Tags: , Categories: HR, Reward

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