Why does the gender pay gap still exist? No doubt if you’re a brand new business, you can be excused for thinking that the idea of there being significant differences between wages of your future employees is abhorrent.
Yet a combination of tradition, different working patterns, and outdated attitudes to a women’s role in the workplace means that significant gender pay inequalities still exist.
At the small business level, findings from a groundbreaking new report from Informi have revealed that the gender pay gap among SME-dominated industries currently stands at 13%.
While this is still a notable gap, tellingly the report shows how this is a 9% fall in the gender pay gap in these industries since 2008. The national picture over the same period reports just a 4% drop, from 21% in 2008 to 17% today.
At current rates, wage equality across these SME-dominated industries will be achieved by 2034. Of course, it’s still more than possible to achieve parity well before then, but there’s a great deal still to be done. Some industries are lagging behind others in implementing the changes that are needed to ensure females get just as many opportunities as males to thrive in their profession of choice.
Vineeta Greenwood is design director and co-runner of design agency Wholegrain Digital. She believes that small businesses can watch gender pay gaps and wage ratios more closely than larger businesses, where owners can be far removed from the people responsible for putting in the hours at their desks. “In our small business, we value each team member highly,” says Vineeta, “because every person really really counts, and aren’t replaceable easily because of the inherent knowledge they gain about the business. I believe it’s important to make salaries transparent across organisations; there really is no need for differentiation.”
So how exactly should your business go about playing your own part in helping to eradicate the gender pay gap once and for all? Here’s a five-point plan that Informi has put together to help you find out.
Informi’s guide to implementing a fairer pay system
1. Develop an overall understanding of your situation by reviewing roles and pay rates:
- Are there discrepancies? What are the reasons behind any differences in pay? Is this to do with skills and responsibilities?
- Remember that gender discrimination is illegal, though it’s been hard to eradicate in many businesses.
2. Look at your HR policies and procedures:
- Consider your recruitment rules. Is unconscious bias creeping in? Are you offering potential candidates a level playing field?
- Do you have performance reviews or are these more casual conversations? Remember that men are much more likely to ask for, and receive, pay rises than women.
3. Offer flexible working:
- Consider offering flexible working to women and men so that both genders can work around childcare and other responsibilities.
- Advertise flexible working during the recruitment process, ensuring you have access to the widest talent pool. Remember that consumers expect to be able to get products and services whenever they want, so changing from a traditional 9-5 working pattern could help give a better customer experience.
4. Review career development and progression opportunities:
- Do part-time and full-time employees have the same access to training and development opportunities? Do part-time employees feel they are ‘stuck’ at their current level?
- Are more senior roles open to job shares or flexible working to encourage career progression?
5. Make change happen!
- Commit to positive action by setting targets and goals to reduce gender inequality.
- For example, look to increase management roles for women or upskilling opportunities in part-time roles.
Olivia Hill is Chief HR Officer at AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians). She shared her own thoughts as to how to ensure that the gender pay gap becomes a thing of the past through company policies. “Businesses should look to bring unconscious bias into their employees’ consciousness,” said Olivia. “Educate your staff on the topic, and encourage people to consider it when making decisions about recruitment and pay. You can also look to reduce gender bias by measuring performance against set, agreed, standards (rather than comparing employees).
“For our workforce, flexible working means more than part-time hours; it can refer to compressed hours, a nine-day fortnight, working from home, reduced hours or leave options. Technology has improved our ability to work remotely, so flexible working should be viewed as an opportunity to increase engagement, rather than as a barrier.
“Also, consider signing up to the Women in Finance charter, which is committed to building a more balanced and fair industry. The organisations which have signed up so far pledge to promote gender diversity in a number of different ways.”