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Tackling the Gender Pay Gap

Achieving gender equality – the equal access of resources and opportunities regardless of gender – has become an increasingly important priority in both developing and developed countries across all industry sectors.

Improving gender equality is strongly linked to global health and safety, economic growth and prosperity. One way to support gender equality is by understanding and prioritising the gender pay gap throughout all industries and countries.

What is the gender pay gap?

The gender pay gap is the average difference between wages for men and women. Unlike pay inequality, which compares the wages of men and women doing the same job, the gender pay gap is the difference at a company level. This is calculated by a percentage difference between average hourly earnings for men and women.

According to the UK Government – the average gender pay gap in the UK is 23%, and women are consistently posted in the lowest-paid and least-secure areas of work. UK Government research shows 74% of companies pay higher rates to their male staff, yet 11% of companies state there is no difference between the rates paid to either gender. Similarly, in China, a 2013 study found that women are paid 75% of what men are paid.

The increasing focus on the gender pay gap has led many countries to introduce laws in an effort to reduce gender pay gap globally. In France, large companies must publish gender pay indicators in the aim to regulate the best paid employees. Similarly, in Switzerland and Sweden, they must conduct an annual pay audit analysing equal pay practices, and demonstrating men and women are paid equally. Canada is also introducing a law banning companies from asking about applicants’ pay history, in order to implement pay transparency.

Why is there a gender pay gap?

A common contributing factor to the gender pay gap is the issue of gender stereotyping jobs – where some positions and industries are considered to be ‘male’ or ‘female’ roles, consequently dividing the labour market.  Many ‘male roles’ attract a higher pay rate in industries such as construction, engineering, mechanics and science. Whereas the ‘female roles’ carry lower wages in industries such as childcare, residential care and education.

Parental leave is mainly taken by women before and after birth whereas only one third of fathers take this leave entitlement. The effect of this is women spending more time out of employment on statutory leave caring for children than males. In turn, this can affect an employer’s subconscious when hiring women for particular roles and full-time positions.

This also leads to more men being promoted to management positions and a strong imbalance of male and female leaders in the workplace. Research in 2017 states that only 1 in 3 managers in the EU are women, further exacerbating the gender pay gap to favour men. Similarly, women in Northern Africa hold less than one in five paid jobs in the non-agricultural sector.

Ways to address gender pay gap in your supply chain

As the gender pay gap continues to gain attention, companies can become advocates and work towards achieving a no gender pay gap, internally and within their supply chains.

As a business you can:

  • Offer flexible working options for both men and women, such as part-time, remote working, job sharing or compressed hours to help support working parents.
  • Advocate for shared parental leave – evenly divided between men and women – and implement policies for both maternity and paternity leave.
  • Introduce greater transparency for promotion, pay and reward-based decisions to push employers’ actions to close the gender pay gap. This process allows employees to clearly understand organisational decision making and drives managers to be objective and make evidence-based decisions.
  • When hiring employees, use structured interviews that ask the same set list of questions for all candidates, and assess responses using a pre-specified and standardised criterion. This way, the interview results will be comparable and reduce the risk of subconscious bias. Additionally, use skills-based assessments rather than just interviews to select the most suitable candidate.
  • Set specific, time bound targets for achieving internal targets such as ‘improving gender equality at my organisation’. For example, take a gender pay audit to understand if you are paying and employing different genders equally.
  • Promote diversity and equality within your workplace and to your stakeholders.