What we've learnt by publishing our gender pay gap
23 May 2018
Four years ago we published our gender pay gap for staff for the first time. We joined only a handful of a companies in doing so. We’d been measuring the data for a number of years, but we hoped that by publicly stating our figures this would accelerate action to change. This has certainly been our experience.
Critically, the transparency has pushed us - it has helped us - because creating a diverse and inclusive organisation now rests with everyone in our business, rather than ‘diversity’ issues simply sitting with our HR team.
Fast forward to April this year, and all UK companies with more than 250 people are now required to publish their figures based on the government’s criteria. For me, this is a hugely positive step. In the four years since we first published we have learnt a lot. I’m proud that we’ve been able to use the data to inform our actions and make progress in closing our gender pay gap. But what has been most encouraging, is the amount of positive conversations that mandatory gender pay gap reporting has created. Fairness and inclusion issues are high on the public’s agenda. People care what a company’s gender pay gap is, and rightly so.
Against this backdrop, expectations on companies are higher than they’ve ever been. This can only be a good thing and should encourage companies to challenge themselves to do things differently. It’s clear that in order to solve the gender pay divide, serious and sustained action is needed. That’s why we listened to feedback and decided to go beyond the regulations and publish our gender pay gap to include partners, who are excluded under the legislations’ guidelines. We have published a clear action plan alongside our gender pay gap data and we were also were the first company to voluntarily report our black, asian and minority ethnic (BAME) pay gap in 2017.
I was pleased to be able to share our action plan with the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee last week in a hearing on their inquiry into the gender pay gap in the private sector. It is only by openly discussing the challenges that different businesses face, the actions they’re taking, and what works and what doesn’t work, that we’ll be able to shift the dial.
Publishing these figures hasn’t changed our action plan, but it has re-focused our efforts. Since we started looking at our gender pay gap data in 2014 we have known that our main challenge is a lack of females in senior positions. Despite this still being true, how we address it has changed. Previously we had hundreds of well intended diversity and inclusion initiatives in place across our firm, which made it very difficult to understand what was actually making a difference. We now have a focussed five point plan on areas where we believe that we can have a tangible impact. Our five point action plan is:
- Senior level accountability to build a diverse talent pipeline
- Driving fair allocation of work and opportunities so that more people get access to career-defining jobs
- Investment in our returnship programme
- Focused recruitment activity, particularly at senior levels where we find it harder to recruit women
- Creation of additional progression coaches
We recognise that our numbers aren’t good enough. They are certainly not where we want to be as a business and we have strong aspirations about reaching our targets for female and ethnicity representation at the top.
I’m a strong believer that what gets measured gets done and that the current scrutiny around gender pay gap reporting can only be a good thing. But in order to really move the debate forward, we need to shift the focus towards the inputs and actions that organisations are taking to make a difference and whether these are driven by what their data is telling them. Taking a focussed approach has allowed us to look into the reasons explaining why we have fewer women in senior positions and has helped us understand and take action on the barriers women may face at various stages of their career. Looking at areas such as fair work allocation is game-changing and highlights the complexity of the challenge we’re facing. If the added scrutiny helps companies dig deeper to understand their own pressure points, and then take targeted action, then I am all for it.