Know the facts to close the gap

9 November 2015

Today, 60% of those earning less than the living wage are women. Women are more likely to work in low skilled jobs and are highly unlikely to make it into the highest paid jobs – just 5 of the FTSE 100 Chief Executives are women. That all contributes to a pay gap that is still nearly 20% overall and 14% for those working full time.

At the current rate, it will take over 50 years to achieve equal pay for women. It’s time to speed up the pace of change.

To close the gap we need to know the facts. The pay gap is complicated and has multiple causes; from illegal discrimination to the clustering of men and women in different types of work. The problem is different from organisation to organisation.

In response to a Fawcett campaign, the government recently announced that they will require organisations employing over 250 people to publish their pay gap. It’s a welcome step forward and has already started to focus attention on the issue. But a single figure won’t tell employers or the public much about what’s really causing inequality. As it stands, it is in danger of becoming a missed opportunity.

That’s why on Equal Pay Day the Fawcett Society is calling for all organisations employing over 50 people to conduct a full pay audit. That means calculating the organisation’s pay gap but also reviewing the way the organisation values different skills; who gets promoted and who works in different roles; who works flexibly and who holds the top jobs.  Once employers understand what the gap in their organisation is and what the causes might be, they can develop an action plan to close it.

We want to see employers publishing the background on how they conducted their review and calculated their pay gap – that way we’ll know what’s behind the figures and be able to make fairer comparisons.

The government should require this as part of the regulations on pay audits as well as enforcing proper penalties for those who don’t play by the rules. But this is something employers can do right now to show their commitment to closing the gender pay gap, as well as getting the most out of their workforce.

It makes good business sense, identifying what’s holding women back in an organisation will mean employers can maximise potential and get the most out of their employee’s skills and talents. Organisations that show they always pay women fairly will earn the good reputation they deserve, and they’ll be able to attract the best talent for every role.

But we don’t have to wait for government or businesses to act – we can all play our own part.

Here are three things you can do:

  • Have a conversation at work about pay, find out what your colleagues earn.
  • Ask your employer whether they know about the new regulations which are due to come in to force next year, requiring organisations with over 250 employees to publish their gender pay gap figure and whether they are ready to implement this change.
  • Write to your MP and ask them what they and their party are doing to close the gender pay gap.

Fawcett is gathering pledges from men and women across the country; tell us what you will do to help close the gap by tweeting @FawcettSociety using #PayGapPledge. You can also find more information on the gender pay gap on our website.

The Fawcett Society is the UK’s leading charity campaigning on gender equality. This blog was written by Jemima Olchawski, Head of Policy and Insight and Anthony Breach, Research Officer.

*NIACE and UKCES research to mark Equal Pay Day today shows that women are losing out when it comes to workplace training.