Back in July, the BBC found itself right in the centre of the UK’s gender pay gap debate. The corporation had published the salaries of its highest-paid employees, revealing the pay of some of its top earners. Examples included salaries of around £2.2m for Chris Evans and £1.75m for Gary Lineker. The revelations left the radio and tv stars having to justify their large pay packets.
Top BBC earners
An even bigger backlash followed, with the revelations of the considerable gender pay gap at the BBC. Only a third of the BBC’s top 96 earners were revealed to be women. And the top seven earners were shown to all be men.
Following the publication, female stars publicly vented their anger. Radio 4’s Jayne Garvey claimed that the BBC had simply “fobbed off” its female workforce. She spearheaded the sending of an open letter of complaint, signed by 40 female stars.
Almost immediately, the BBC’s top brass launched into a damage limitation PR exercise. Director General, Tony Hall, pledged to close the gap by 2020. Many people urged the BBC to “accelerate” their efforts to create equal salaries. Campaigners, MPs and a number of high profile celebrities have called for sweeping changes to employment law and practice. They want more flexible work opportunities, additional paternity leave and increased transparency, to help redress the balance.
Gender pay gap reporting
From April this year, the new gender pay gap reporting requirements came into effect. This means large employers must now publish their figures by April 2018. The new reporting rules will see over 8,000 UK businesses with 250-plus employees held to account, even though many are still unprepared.
Gender pay gap: A global issue?
The BBC may have felt the intensity of the media spotlight the most in recent months, however, it’s far from the only organisation with a poor record on gender pay. The pay gap has become a global issue.
In Australia, the Workplace Gender Equality Agency revealed startling figures. Published data showed that female childcare workers receive 32% lower salaries than their male counterparts. In the U.S., Ivanka Trump had once vowed to be an advocate for women in the workplace, but the President’s daughter now supports the rolling back Obama policy. The Obama policy forced companies to collect data according to gender, race, and ethnicity; and it’s aim, just like here in the UK was to eliminate the gender pay gap.
How can we close the gender pay gap?
The BBC’s pay gap of 10% is actually considerably lower than the national average of 18.1%. However, it does highlight the imbalance of pay throughout the country. And just like the BBC, many other organisations face the challenge of being reliant on an open market for recruitment. Employers feel forced to meet the asking price of their top candidate, and interestingly, research shows that women tend to be more moderate in their salary negotiating than men.
Employers should be careful about implementing a ‘quick-fix’ solution to the gender pay gap problem. They should instead recognise that it’s not just about where they are now, but where they are heading and how will they reach there. A number of employers have already taken a longer-term approach to shrinking the gender pay gap at their organisation by:
• Promoting flexible working
• Focusing on measurement
• Promoting female leadership
• Eliminating salary negotiation.
Any unjustified gaps should be addressed urgently, but otherwise, companies should look to the long term by changing the work culture, including becoming more flexible about childcare arrangements, parental leave, and flexible or remote working, in general.