The gender pay gap has been in the news recently, highlighting the fact that even though equal pay between the sexes has been part of UK law for 40 years, there are still significant differences between the pay for men and women doing the same or equivalent jobs.
Obligatory reporting of the gap in pay between male and female workers has just been introduced for organisations larger than 250 people. While it is hoped that this will encourage organisations to take action on their gender pay gaps, there is no requirement to do so. It’s also important to recognise that many factors lead to the difference in pay that we still see between the sexes; it is not just direct discrimination on behalf of organisations. Actually, aspects such as more women being in part time roles, in general having more child care and elder care responsibilities limiting the hours they can work and availability for overtime etc., which can in turn impact their reputation within the organisation, and their chances of a promotion or a pay rise. There are also historical cultural factors to consider, such as men being the traditional “bread winner” and roles requiring more traditionally “masculine” type qualities being considered to have intrinsically more worth than those requiring qualities considered traditionally “female”.
As such, making real and lasting change within organisations will be complicated, as any mixture of factors could be involved. The equal opportunities commission is encouraging organisations to undertake an equal pay audit, in order to understand and address their own specific reasons for unequal gender pay.
Broader issues relating to the gender pay gap are likely to impact all organisations to some degree or another. Some of these aspects, such as encouraging girls to continue their education in science, maths, technology and engineering, or enforcing well-paid paternity leave, are bigger than what individual organisations can impact directly. However, there are actions that organisations can take. For example, in recruitment, organisations who provide information about the number of individuals who have applied for a role and those who use less overtly masculine language in their advertisements see more applications from females, especially for roles in typically male-dominated areas (Croson and Gneezy 2009; Gaucher et al, 2011; Gee 2015). It’s also important to do as much as possible to reduce the impact of implicit biases throughout the recruitment process. “Blind” initial screening (e.g. reviewing CV’s with names covered) has been shown to increase the number of females selected. Further into the recruitment process, it’s essential to use valid and reliable selection methods, such as quality ability tests, well designed and delivered assessment centres, and to ensure all recruitment staff are properly trained.
The journey continues once individuals are on-boarded, as organisational culture, training and development opportunities can have a big impact on many factors which influence equal pay. One such factor is the number of women in senior roles in the organisation. This is important as equal representation of the sexes in senior ranks demonstrates an expectation of equality at more junior levels. Even within organisations where there is an imbalance, senior leaders can work to change internal culture to promote flexible working and inclusion. Another method seen to improve the situation is coaching and mentoring for high potential females. This can help to boost confidence and assertiveness, as well as broader leadership skills. Finally, equal development opportunities for both sexes is key to ensuring equal representation at higher organisational levels.
Author: Helen Worrall