Closing the gap.

Friday 4th April marked the deadline for charities and private sector companies with over 250 employees to publish their gender pay gap. The deadline for the public sector was 31st March.

Overall, figures showed little improvement – a picture described by The Fawcett Society’s Chief Executive Sam Smethers as “disappointing, but not surprising”.

In this year’s report, 78% companies had a pay gap in favour of men, and more than a quarter of companies pay women 20% less than men based on median hourly pay; that is, the difference between the middle-ranking woman and the middle ranking man.

There has been a marginal reduction in the overall median pay gap in favour of men however, reported at 9.6% compared to 9.7% last year.

How do we close the gender pay gap?

  1. Tackle unconscious bias

It’s time to acknowledge and change the intrinsic gendered beliefs that men are more career-driven (or career-committed) and are more natural leaders, and therefore deemed more valuable.

We need to do away with the glass ceiling and glass cliff preventing women from fulfilling senior, leadership and board level roles, and provide more opportunities for women to rise through the ranks.

Following the release of gender pay gap figures, many organisations painted a hopeful picture of having recruited more women in junior roles with the aim of closing the gap as they progress through the organisation. That is, unless they get caught by the “sticky floor” – a term used by London Southbank University in their report into the gender pay gap in nursing, which describes how women are held back by factors attributed to their gender, such as the expectation to take a career break to fulfil caring responsibilities or the assumed preference for lower-paid, part-time working.

  1. Offer flexible working and encourage shared parental leave

A key factor in the gender pay gap is inflexibility in roles to accommodate child care and the time taken off during maternity leave.

Despite shared parental leave being in existence for four years, the TUC reported that only 1% of new parents eligible took it up last year. A lack of available information about, encouragement of or making shared parental leave less attractive (only offering statutory pay, for example) by organisations is a contributing factor to this poor take up.

Similarly, a resistance to flexible working remains among many companies. But flexible working doesn’t mean a reduction in hours or a lower level of commitment from the employee.

Adjusting the working day to mirror the school day or term times, compressing hours to accommodate a shorter working week, offering project working, job share opportunities or working from home provide opportunities for women to fulfil their role and continue to progress through the organisation.

  1. Provide transparency in pay scales

Gender pay gap reporting encourages organisations to be open and honest about how they are paying and rewarding their male and female employees.

Transparent pay scales ensure everyone in the organisation is paid fairly. They also do away with problems caused by historic rates of pay – that is, when recruiting employees based on their previous earnings, which, as the gender pay gap reports have uncovered, are likely to have been lower for women (and thus remain lower) than their male colleagues.

  1. Tell your story and have a plan of action

It is essential to accompany your gender pay gap figures with a narrative. This gives context. And as your figures and findings are required to be published on your website for all to see, it is important to get this narrative right.

You also need to set a clear strategy for addressing any gaps in pay effectively, and highlight any strides already made to improve the picture.

In order to close the gap, you need to be proactive and that starts by looking within the organisation. From the creation of roles, salaries and recruitment process to measurement of performance, promotion and company structure, now is the time to scrutinise existing processes, models and attitudes.

At Tell Jane, we can support your organisation in gathering and analysing data, formulating your report, composing your accompanying narrative and, crucially, help you implement proactive steps for reducing the gap and tackling the cause.

The first step is to get in touch, so if you’re interested in how Tell Jane can help with your gender pay gap reporting and action plan, email to find out more.


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