Five tips for communicating the GENDER PAY GAP, a post to help organisations with their gender pay gap reporting

Five tips for communicating the GENDER PAY GAP

by Steve Marinker, Head of Corporate at Powerscourt

Five tips for getting it right

The deadline for submitting Gender Pay Gap data is just four weeks away, but according to the Financial Times only one in six companies had uploaded its data to the Government portal by last weekend, meaning there is likely to be an almighty last-minute scramble.

Plans for communicating Gender Pay Gap data are likely to be well advanced, but Powerscourt has prepared this short primer to help businesses fine tune, or at least sense-check, their thinking.

1. Gender Balance

The revelation that female BBC news presenters are paid less than their male counterparts has routinely, but wrongly, been described as an example of the Gender Pay Gap.

Most companies that have reported so far have been at pains to point out that the Gender Pay Gap has nothing to do with equal pay, but that hasn’t stopped the two terms being conflated.

By far the biggest contributor to any organisation’s Gender Pay Gap is the imbalance between men and women in senior roles. That’s why we recommend taking an assertive approach to communications by framing gender pay in the context of GENDER BALANCE.

There may be several contributory factors, but for most businesses the Gender Pay Gap is largely explained by the ratio of men to women at the top of the organisation. So, make this the story.

In both formal reporting and in internal & external communication, headline your disclosure as GENDER BALANCE AND PAY and start with a commentary on the gender ratio at the top of your organisation before addressing the pay gap and how it is calculated.

2. Cold showers, not warm baths

Any organisation with a Gender Pay Gap above the national average of 18.4 per cent, or above its sector average, will be expected to have a plan in place to get more women into senior roles.

And with thousands of employers due to disclose in the next few weeks there will be a sharp focus on the remedial actions being promised.

We recommend employers keep ‘warm bath’ language to a minimum. Non-specific commitments to inclusion and diversity are fine but they will ring hollow unless accompanied by specific, measurable and meaningful actions.

SAY LESS but make it MEAN MORE.

3. Excuses, excuses

For employers in sectors such as IT, engineering and construction it’s tempting to think there’s a get-out-of-jail-free card. After all, these are industries which have traditionally attracted more men than women and the current imbalance can be explained away as a legacy issue.

But, trust us, all your competitors will offer up the same excuse and it won’t be long before it’s considered lame.

Better to say that you will NOT HIDE BEHIND EXCUSES and are focused on putting it right.

4. Explaining the inexplicable

Employers in traditionally male-dominated industries do, at least, have a plausible excuse, but what about sectors where one might expect a better balance?

Women’s fashion retailer Phase Eight is an eye-catching example. Of the companies which have reported so far, it has the widest Gender Pay Gap at 65 per cent.

At first it seems inexplicable, but in fact it’s not at all surprising. Phase Eight has 1,754 employees of which only 44 are men, most of whom work in head office. That’s why the average hourly pay for men is a lot higher than it is for women.

So, what should businesses like Phase Eight do? The headline figures are horrible but the explanation, however reasonable, gets lost.

Our recommendation is to REFRAME THE STORY. No-one can escape the tyranny of the data point but they can choose how to present it to their key stakeholders.

Phase Eight says 47 per cent of its senior leadership team is female. That should be the headline. Everything else is footnotes.

5. It’s not just gender on the agenda

Gender Pay gap reporting has generated a steady stream of media interest so far but there will be an explosion of scrutiny when the deadline passes on April 4th.

Apart from those with a great story to tell, most businesses will be seeking the sanctuary of mid-table obscurity. The majority will achieve it. The story is in the outliers.

Your organisation may get away with it on gender, but all the indications are that further reporting requirements are in the pipeline. What does your ETHNICITY PAY GAP look like?

Our advice is to start thinking about that now.

Steve Marinker is Head of Corporate at Powerscourt, an independent strategic communications and reputation management consultancy.

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