In a few months’ time many PR teams are going to face a major challenge when, for the first time, the law will require their employer or client to publish details of their own gender pay audit.
The Fawcett Gender Pay Gap Conference on Thursday 12 October, explored what organisations should expect from their first audit (required from employers with more than 250 staff). All of the speakers agreed on what they called ‘the challenge of the narrative’.
Every organisation has a gender pay gap, but no two gaps are the same. Each employer will have particular circumstances and particular factors which contribute to their gap – some easier to speak about publicly than others. Organisations can’t just ‘publish and be damned’ because the numbers will not speak for themselves. They need to put thought and care into understanding their own figures, reflecting on what similar organisations are doing, and communicating their plan for narrowing the gap in future.
Fawcett Chief Executive Sam Smethers, spoke about the case for closing the gender gap, based largely on ensuring that organisations make best use of the talent they have in the right positions. All organisations should expect to have a gap, she said, and that should not be a surprise. The point is to support organisations to reduce and end it, not to pillory them for having one.
Ann Francke, Chief Executive of the Chartered Management Institute, highlighted the particularly large gender pay gap in senior management positions (27%) across all sectors (reflected in our analysis of figures for the PR sector). She described how this is often worsened by the habit of recruiting externally – and overwhelmingly for men – for senior roles.
Professor Carol Woodhams from Exeter Business School raised the disturbing possibility that of media adopt a hostile ‘name and shame’ approach to organisations with large gender pay gaps, the results could be unhelpful. If an employer has many women working in lower-paid grades, one simple way of improving your gender pay gap is to outsource those roles, so they disappear from your results. Equally, a well-intentioned employer taking on a large number of young women apprentices or trainees might find that they widen their gender pay gap as a result.
For CIPR members, the key points are:
- If your employer of client has more than 250 staff, they must publish a gender pay audit.
- Despite what bosses may believe about themselves, their audit will show a gender pay gap.
- Critical to the reputation of the organisation will be what an organisation says about its gap. If it shows a good understanding of its causes, and has something positive to say about future plans, this may be just as important as the size of the gap itself.
- So – make sure the organisation knows if it has to produce an audit; encourage it to complete its audit in good time (like now); make it discuss the results with you; and make sure you have a chance to help shape the messages that accompany when it goes out, no later than 31 March 2018.
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