Happy International Women's Day!
International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity so what better day in the calendar than this to publish our latest gender pay gap report.
We are not quite large enough to be required by law to even analyse our gender pay gap, you do not reach this level until you have more than 250 employees, which seems very high to me. The gender pay gap is the difference between average male and female earnings so I would like to think that every business at least measures this, even if it does not have to actually publish the figures.
We started properly measuring our gender pay gap three years ago. We have a high proportion of female employees at all levels of the business so I was pretty confident that the results would look good. And they did. Our first pay gap report showed a negative result at -2.4%, meaning that on average, women were earning 2.4% more than men.
It’s really important to remember that the pay gap is different to equal pay for equal jobs. It is all about the average earnings of women and men in a business or department, regardless of their roles. So, what it’s really analysing is the level of representation of women at all levels of the business and particularly in the more senior roles, which in turn brings those average earnings up.
I have to say I was disappointed with our new gender pay gap results [see report here]. When I learnt that we had moved from -2.4% to +4% I was annoyed and wanted to find out how we had let this happen. Only to be informed by our People & Culture Director that it was my fault! Having previously been the most senior people in the business, Simon and I paid ourselves equally. Then a couple of years ago, we decided to bolster the team around us and recruited a Marketing Director, Finance Director and Managing Director, only one of whom is female and thereby bringing the average earnings for women down. Had one of those new roles been filled by a woman, we would have been reporting a negative pay gap. Which does leave me wondering whether it’s ok to positively discriminate in favour of women in order to achieve a better pay gap!
Of course, it’s no joking matter and I am only slightly kicking myself as we now have a fabulous team. As the proud owner of a degree in Mathematics, I do know that small sample sizes can skew averages beyond useful bounds and maybe this is why smaller businesses are not required to report on this (I still think they should do the sums however). But where businesses have thousands of employees, the average calculation is the best one we have for checking female representation in any particular company.
The national average is currently 15.5% so there’s a long way to go but with reports of the gender pay gap worsening as a result of the coronavirus pandemic*, it’s even more important for us to continue to analyse the results and put in place measures to ensure that our gender pay gap remains close to zero (that doesn’t require sacking one of the male directors!). You can see the detailed measures on our report, I believe they are all really important but one that is hard to articulate is the part that being inspired by a role model plays. I truly believe that women inspire other women. If we have women in the most senior positions in the business, there is everything for the young women in the business to play for. One of our senior leadership team started with the business as a temporary member of the packing team who arrived to help out with the Christmas rush in 2006! She is hard-working, willing to learn and is a great team player and those attributes are far more important to us than paper qualifications, although she now has plenty of those too. I really hope and believe that she will be inspiring all the other young women in the business that they too can progress to the highest level.
If you speak to anyone under the age of 25, it’s not hard to see that the success of business in future will be determined by how authentic its attitude towards diversity and inclusion is. I also truly believe that the success of a business should be determined by the happiness of the people within it which isn’t the same thing but it is very obvious that if you allow people to come to work, be themselves and allow them to forge their own careers, inspired by those around them, that’s an excellent place to start.
*The Guardian, Linda Scott 7th July 2020