In March 2023, the House of Commons Library published a briefing paper called Women and the UK Economy. In it, the authors reveal that the median weekly pay for female full-time employees in the UK – based on data from April 2022 - is £584.
The corresponding amount for male employees? £683.
The UK has a gender pay gap. And it’s not alone...
A worldwide issue
In 2021, women in the EU earned an average of 12.7% less per hour than men. In 2022, in the States, the Pew Research Centre figures show that American women earned 82 cents for every dollar a man earns.
These disparities exist even though more women than men are now graduating from higher education. In the UK, in 2022, 57.6% of graduates were women. In the same year in the US, 50.7% of the college-educated workforce were women. In the EU, 48% of women have tertiary education, compared with 37% of men.
Why do these figures matter? They matter because they suggest that countries are underutilising – or under-rewarding – women. And they show that the gender pay gap is a deep, systemic issue. It affects diversity, output, and achievement within companies and the broader economy. Fostering inequality. Eroding trust. Reducing productivity.
Your gender pay gap impacts your success
In our knowledge-based, skills-driven economy, success comes down to talent. Talent can choose where it works. And a company’s attitude to the gender pay gap can directly feed into that choice. According to the business network Business in the Community, 92% of people would consider pay gap data if they were to choose between two prospective employers.
Organisations that take action on – and communicate effectively about – their gender pay gap see positive results. It builds trust, engages employees and prospective talent, and supports brand reputation. So, what does best practice look like?
Six steps for communicating your gender pay gap
1. Be straightforward about your numbers.
Say what the numbers are. Explain – simply – how they’re calculated. If the gap has widened or narrowed, acknowledge it. Briefly explain the key factor/s that drive your gender pay gap. And then go to step two...
2. Put the emphasis on action.
Gender pay gap reporting is an opportunity to demonstrate your genuine commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. This doesn’t come from reporting your numbers. It’s the result of engaging – authentically – with the issue of the gender pay gap and taking action to address it.
In other words, the ‘meat’ of your gender pay gap communications should be your strategy to tackle the gap. Be clear about what you’re doing to enhance equity, what you plan to do next, and why you are investing in these actions.
3. Explain why addressing the gender pay gap benefits all colleagues.
The gender pay gap is – obviously – an issue that divides along the lines of gender. This means that there is a risk that male employees may have negative feelings about it, worrying that it could disadvantage them.
That could result in them disengaging from communications about the issue or being actively hostile. So, your communications must be inclusive: setting out the multiple benefits – diversity, productivity, ongoing success - of closing the gap for every employee.
This should be backed up with initiatives that support your gender pay gap strategy and offer clear benefits to all. Championing shared parental leave. Supporting flexible working. Creating mentorship and career pathway opportunities.
4. Show how addressing the gender pay gap aligns with your purpose and values
Your purpose and values matter to your employees because they shape the direction and energy of your organisation. By showing how tackling the gender pay gap aligns with these fundamental aspects of workplace culture, you:
- Demonstrate that this is an issue you’ve thought about in depth.
- Communicate the added value to the organisation by making this a priority area.
- Highlight its relevance to all employees.
5. Ensure senior leadership is on board.
The systemic nature of the gender pay gap means it requires long-term, structural change to drive results. This can only be achieved by senior leadership figures who are fully committed to making change.
Those voices need to be used when communicating about the pay gap. They show that the momentum for change comes from the organisation's top. Using direct communication from the senior leadership team – in town halls, videos, and webinars, as well as in quotes and the preface to your gender pay gap report – ensure that members of your leadership team are seen as role models in setting the tone about how the gender pay gap is perceived and talked about.
6. Encourage all employees to own their role in closing the gap
Once you have gained buy-in about the need to close the gender pay gap, it’s time to encourage colleagues to understand that they play a role in achieving this. Challenge them to ask themselves if they’re:
- Supportive of flexible working?
- Taking positive action to create and maintain an inclusive workplace?
- Giving recognition to all colleagues for their work and impact?
- Advocating ways to progress part-time and flexible working colleagues?
- Thinking carefully about the language they use when they’re recruiting and making sure it’s gender-neutral?
- Offering mentoring and career progression to the under-represented gender in different parts of the organisation?
Would you like support to create outstanding communications about your gender pay gap? Get in touch.