In almost 50 years since The Equal Pay Act was passed, shockingly little progress has been made in addressing gender inequality in pay.
I was delighted to be one of the 100 or so people who attended the excellent Equal Pay 50 conference organised by the Equality Trust recently. The conference marked the 49th anniversary of the passage of The Equal Pay Act 1970 and sadly highlighted just how little headway we’ve made regarding the gender pay gap.
One of the more shocking statistics is that the gap has hardly closed in the last 20 years – and has actually widened in some industries. It is also clear that pay in some sectors (especially ones dominated by men) bear little relationship to value. It cannot be right that CEOs in the UK’s top 100 companies now pocket an average of £5.3m each year, or 386 times that of a worker earning the National Living Wage.
At Fat Beehive, we publish both our gender pay gap (13%) and pay ratio (2.6) and have been actively working to get more women into tech. We’re proud that 50% of our developers and 50% of our producers are women. We do this not just because it is right, but because it makes good business sense.
Unfortunately, I don’t think we will close the gender pay gap unless we tackle unequal pay and the gender bias that often start at school. As a society, we also undervalue work that women have been traditionally drawn to, such as nursing and caring, and overvalue the work of professions such as banking and finance. We also need greater transparency over pay; I’m an advocate of the Scandinavian style tax system, which means everyone’s tax (and pay) is publically available.
The Equality Trust has also recently released a groundbreaking report ‘From Pin Money to Fat Cats: Pay Inequality in the FTSE 100’, an analysis of the FTSE 100-owned companies on a sector-by-sector basis in terms of CEO pay ratios, gender pay gaps and gender bonus gaps. It paints a depressing picture of extreme inequality in the FTSE 100-owned companies, with the CEO of Vodafone taking home a salary 390 times that of a Customer Service Advisor, HSBC Bank Plc reporting a gender pay gap of 61% and Quadrant Catering Ltd reporting a gender bonus gap of 100%.
This report follows on from The Equality Trust’s analysis on ‘Fat Cat Day’ 2019, which found that FTSE 100 female CEOs were taking home on average 54% of the salaries of their male counterparts.
Actions governments can take include:
- Better childcare. Many women do not have access to proper childcare, especially for anti-social hours
- Tackling gender bias in education
- Introducing a legal duty (similar to the Public Sector Equality) that requires all companies with 100 staff or more to have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination and advance equality of opportunities
- Introduce salary transparency laws
- Making it a legal duty to publish pay ratios and implementing a 10% business tax surcharge on companies with top execs making over 100 times their median worker pay – and a 20% surcharge on firms with pay gaps over 250 times their median rate.
Organisations can also:
- Improve recruitment practices. All jobs should allow for flexible working and be advertised as such – it’s not just childcare that (mostly) falls to women, but women are also disproportionately carers
- Better Paternity leave so men can share childcare responsibilities
- Better training to get rid of unconscious bias among managers. Senior staff may need to work harder to encourage women to seek promotion
- Improving workplace culture to be more family friendly.
The Equal Pay 50 conference was a good start to the conversation, with academics, trade unionists, business, human rights activists, campaigners and legal experts coming together to explore ways we can proactively tackle this issue. But it was just a start: now we all need to take action in our respective fields so that we don’t mark 50 years of The Equal Pay Act in 2020 with more outrageous statistics.