Gender pay is back in the headlines this week as the deadline passes for reporting pay for male and female employees in companies with more than 250 staff. From today, employers will need to be transparent about average pay for men and women in their organisations which includes any difference in bonuses or at different levels of the pay scale.
This move has been taken by the UK Government because despite over 40 years of Equal Pay legislation, the gender pay gap remains a stubborn problem that the Government is committed to address. From now on, companies will need to know the situation across their business which will shine a light on gender inequality in the workplace and hopefully lead to plans to address the imbalance.
What creates this problem? A wide range of factors contribute to the continued pay inequality for women not only in the UK but around the world. Firstly, more women than men enter careers with low pay such as hairdressing and childcare whereas more men are found in higher paying sectors such as construction and engineering.
Women are more likely to take on the caring role within the family meaning that work and career take a back seat. Choosing to reduce hours limits women’s career options with part-time roles at a senior level being extremely difficult to find. Instead, those women who prioritise family-friendly working hours tend to find their options limited to jobs which are low skilled and low paid.
From a male perspective, whilst rights are increasing for fathers who want to share the responsibility of caring for the family, exercising these rights is often more of a challenge. At all levels of society, assumptions are made about what changes a woman will make once a baby arrives with far less consideration given to how the father might plan to change his working patterns or adjust his career goals.
What needs to be done to tackle the gender pay gap? It’s going to be a long journey with lots of work required to change society’s views on gender roles including working with children to create a foundation for success. However, if you are an employer that wants to start addressing this today, here are three things that employers can do now to make a significant difference for gender pay inequality:
1) Identify any structural issues in the organisation
Many times, I have heard employers say they would love to appoint women to their advertised roles if only they would apply. My response to this is to ask them to consider why women might not put themselves forward for these roles. One possibility might be that women think they can’t have flexibility in the role. For example, across a number of organisations, I have heard women say that they value their flexibility and senior roles in their organisation state that post-holders are required to work the hours necessary to do the job. This can be worrying for women with family responsibilities and they can be discouraged from applying if they think they will not have the flexibility they need to manage work and home.
2) Part-time roles at a senior level
Another thing I have heard many times over the years is that management and senior roles can’t be done part time. In my opinion this is untrue and so a positive step would be for employers to start advertising higher level roles with a clear statement that part-time hours or flexible working is available. For roles that do need someone full-time, employers should start seriously exploring job share arrangements as an option.
3) Supporting fathers to take an active role
As long as women are seen as the ones responsible for caring for the family and home, there will be discrimination in the workplace. New policy and legislation means that the growing number of men who want to be involved in raising up the family, are able to do so. However, enhanced packages offered to women need to be available to men as well to make shared parental leave a viable option. And we need to encourage more men to exercise their right to request flexible working until it is no longer seen as something for women.
Finally, I’ve heard lots of employers saying they know that the gender pay gap is an issue but ‘not in my workplace’. Any organisation that thinks this way needs to seriously reflect. If it’s true then share what you’re doing with others so they can enjoy the same success. If it isn’t true, try some of these actions and start making a change.
Do you agree with the suggestions in this article? Are these things having an impact already in your workplace? Share your thoughts in the comments below.