This April, companies with over 250 employees were required to publish their gender pay gap. The publications revealed a wide range of gaps, reasons such as higher numbers of men at senior levels, and promises to take action. But just saying you’ll do something isn’t enough – we need employers to take concrete steps and create real change.
There are many reasons behind the gender pay gap – it isn’t simply a case of women being paid less than men for doing the same job. These factors include women being over-represented in lower-paid, insecure work, three times more women than men working part-time, the undervaluing of typical ‘women’s jobs’, and the assumption that women will be the primary carers for any children or elderly or disabled relatives.
All this affects women’s ability to progress in their careers, but employers also risk losing out on women’s talents and skills which could benefit their organisation. So how can business show they are taking closing the gender pay gap seriously?
Many large organisations have already taken the first step by publishing their gender pay gap (even if it took a law to make them do so). However, they now need to analyse this data to identify the cause of their gaps and take action to address them. This could include assessing who is being put forward for promotions and ‘fast-track’ training programmes, or supporting women (and men) who have been out of the workforce for a while to return. It’s also important not to consider women as one homogenous mass – instead, employers should take issues such as ethnicity, disability, sexuality and age when developing policies to ensure they align with women’s diverse experiences of the workplace.
Finally, we need to ensure that men are being included in the conversation too. For too long there has been a stereotype of the female caregiver and the male breadwinner, who has no concerns other than work. However, particularly amongst millennial men, these attitudes are changing, yet employers are slow to catch up. Business in the Community’s Equal Lives project, in partnership with Santander UK, is looking at whether employers supporting men to take on more caring responsibilities will support women’s progression at work – which could include narrowing the gender pay gap.
The gender pay gap is narrowing, but progress remains far too slow. If we are to ensure that men and women are truly equal at work and at home, then employers need to act now and create fair, inclusive workplaces that work for everyone.