The Vital Conversation: Addressing the Gender Pay Gap

April 22nd 2021 in Katie Bannon, Employee Communications, Diversity & Inclusion

The Big Picture:

In the States, President Biden is seeking to create a gender-equitable recovery from the pandemic. It’s a strategy that prioritises the economy. Across the member states of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) – a body to which both the US and the UK belong – closing the gender pay gap could boost collective GDP by a staggering US $2 trillion.

But here in the UK, the pandemic has seen gender parity declining. The gender pay gap has widened from 9.5% in 2019 to 11.1% in 2021. These figures may not even show the full extent of the decline, as firms have been granted a six-month extension on reporting their annual figures. Those who didn’t meet this month’s deadline now have until October to file their results. 

Why this matters to your business

There are two reasons why this matters. The first is productivity. The second is talent. At a national level, it’s estimated that increasing the proportion of women in work would boost the UK economy by £48 billion, driving spending, growth, and economic recovery. 

At a business level, research shows that women strongly prefer to work for companies that don’t have a large pay gap. This preference is particularly evident amongst younger women. The message is clear: the size of your gender pay gap has a direct impact on your ability to attract and retain the best, most diverse talent. 

Why does that mean for your bottom line? The difference is stark. The most gender diverse companies outperform the least gender diverse by a mighty 48%.

Having the gender pay gap conversation

Wherever you are on your diversity and inclusion journey, it’s imperative to have an honest conversation with your people. In a world in which news stories create the cultural background and where technology allows individual voices to be heard clearly, saying nothing speaks volumes.

Here are some important points to consider: 

Contextualise your gender pay gap figures.

As the Equality and Human Rights Commission states, having a gender pay gap doesn’t necessarily mean that unlawful discrimination is happening. It can be driven by structural factors, like gender imbalance in the types of jobs performed. So, rather than simply publishing your gender pay gap figures, it’s key to look at why they exist and whether you need to develop an action plan to tackle the root cause. 

Invite authentic, two-way dialogue

The most successful way to address the gender pay gap is to listen – and to open your comms channels - to the voices and opinions of those who are most affected. If you’re truly engaging with your workforce, the bravest thing to do is to let your people be your mouthpiece, too, because this engagement invites empowering, authentic, two-way dialogue. 

Put policies in place and provide consistent updates

That two-way dialogue enables you to create the effective strategies and policies that drive an inclusive culture with equality at its heart. These policies are vital. They are the basis for your inclusion journey, making employees feel secure and ensuring that colleagues at all levels can jump onboard. From that point, roadmaps and consistent updates provide a framework for providing the ongoing, agile messaging that is integral to success.

Lead from the top

The most advanced companies in this space are those in which active and vocal leaders deliver personal messages that connect emotionally with their people. This is honest communication coming right from the top. As Travis Robinson at Spotify says, “Mistakes will happen, on both sides of the house, but how we respond and move forward through the mistakes will be key.”

Reap the reward

The rewards of open communication and commitment to addressing inequality are palpable. With your employer brand as your sharpest recruiting tool, gender parity pays dividends in the form of Glassdoor comments and good publicity. It attracts a diverse pool of top talent from a diverse talent pool. Over 40% of prospective candidates would only work for companies that value diversity. It builds your margins. A global survey of 21,980 firms, found that for profitable firms, a move from no female leaders to 30% representation was associated with a 15% increase in the net revenue margin.

Your people are your best investment. By celebrating and promoting their diversity you help grow an inclusive workplace. The creativity and energy that unlocks will power your ongoing success.

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