Opinion

Take positive, proactive steps this Equal Pay Day

Today (Monday 9 November) is Equal Pay Day. This date moves each year and is used to mark the point in the calendar where the difference between the average male and female salaries means that only men will get paid for the rest of the year, and that women will effectively be working for free.

Despite the fact that the Equal Pay Act was introduced 45 years ago, the latest research from the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) and Xpert HR shows that female managers still earn 22% less than their male counterparts. This is not only unfair but also a key issue which has significant impact on businesses and the wider economy.

New legislation will come in next year which will require organisations with more than 250 employees to publicly report what they pay male and female staff. But where does this leave SMEs and the smaller private businesses which make up a large proportion of organisations in our region?

We would encourage local businesses to take their own proactive steps, rather than waiting for government initiatives. The focus should also extend beyond closing the gender pay gap to achieving overall gender equality within the senior management team.

After all, an organisation’s pay structure is affected by its progression pipeline. So at the same time as proactively reviewing salary data to see where any gender differences may exist, examine your organisation’s pipeline as well. Is there an equal balance of men and women working their way up through your ranks? If not, what barriers may be in place that are preventing this? If you don’t know why women fail to climb the ladder at your organisation, you can’t make any changes. Dig out the root causes and find positive solutions.

Working to secure more women in senior executive roles will pave the way for others, and ensure they are paid the same as male colleagues at every stage of their careers. The business benefits to achieving gender equality are also significant. Evidence shows that organisations with an equal gender balance at senior levels have a more collaborative and creative approach to problem solving, make better decisions, and are more considerate on how business issues will impact on their people, as well as to the bottom line.

It may be considered a bold move, but any organisations which actively publish salary figures, without the need for legislation, will also be seen as more attractive places to work. Openly demonstrating any action which is being taken to address the pay gap and to ensure equal progression will help businesses to attract and retain the best talent.

At Pure, our aim is to inspire organisations to create rewarding work environments where any barriers to progression are removed, and where everyone is able to work in a way that makes them feel productive and engaged. To support this we have developed a Women's Leadership Programme to help both local employers and employees to make some of the changes needed. Created with People and Performance it has been designed to help more organisations in the region to develop talented, aspiring female leaders.

The programme also works in partnership with organisations to encourage them to mentor and support their female talent and to address any areas where unconscious bias may exist. Over 30 organisations have already participated since it launched in 2014, providing their female talent with a great forum to develop their professional networks, reach their full potential, and to negotiate the pay they deserve.