Gender Symbols - Gender Pay Gap Article

New government legislation dictates that an organisation that has 250 or more employees must publish and report figures about their gender pay gap. The ‘gap’ is calculated by taking the average hourly earnings of men across an organisation and comparing it to the average hourly earnings of women. To be clear, it’s a different issue to that of equal pay … that’s about men and women who do the same jobs being paid equally. We’re not going to get bogged down in the ‘why it matters’ or make judgements about whose ‘doing well’ and what it means but it’s pretty obvious that lots of other people will!

Being required by law to be totally transparent about something that in the past has remained firmly behind closed doors has big implications, both with your internal audience as well as customers and other stakeholders like future employees. Any brand with over 250 employees may see a reaction because so many people have an opinion about what the gender pay gap means.

You may not be an organisation that has ever felt the need to have a political opinion in the past, and whether or not you’re happy about your organisation’s ‘gap’ being published, if you’ve got over 250 employees you’ve no choice. You need a plan. Does everyone across the leadership team understand the gender pay gap? What do you think your ‘gap’ says about your brand? Does it contradict or add value to the positioning of your brand? Has the publication of the data skewed the way in which your brand is perceived? Do you have a plan of action to respond to how your gender pay gap has been reported? Do you think your gender pay gap will damage your reputation?

It might seem like a lot of questions but your data will be scrutinised by staff, customers, the media and future employees, clarifying your views will help you respond to criticism and position communications activity over the coming months.

You could start by looking at your data and working out what it actually means. The data alone won’t give an accurate picture of what’s going on in your business. Ideally you will have had an open conversation with your internal team, outlining what the data means and figuring out how as a business it might impact your reputation and what your response should be.

How to Respond

  • Understand your data and work out how you’re going to talk about it both internally and externally.
  • Be prepared that conversations, particularly internally, may move quickly from the gender pay gap to the issue of equal pay. Although the two things are different, they are often part of the same conversation – it’s important that you have a clear picture of what the current situation is across your business and how you feel about it.
  • Do you need to do anything? You might decide that after weighing up the evidence you need to make some changes. Perhaps you’ve got an aspirational plan for the future, how are you going to talk about this?
  • Look at your brand, what’s your company culture like? Consider whether your gender pay gap data ‘fits’ with everything your brand claims to be. Even if the data appears to contradict what you stand for as brand, the way you communicate about it could help to re-address this. For example, “we’re not feeling great about the gender pay gap in our company and this is what we plan to do about it …” Is significantly better than saying nothing at all. Or worse still, waiting until the only voice from your business is a disgruntled employee talking to a reporter about how shocked and disappointed they are by your gender pay gap.
  • If you’re doing well shout about it! This newly harvested data is great material for recruitment marketing. You can add it to the careers section of your website and any other marketing materials designed to attract new employees. Perhaps back it up with some interesting profiles on staff members who’ve had a big influence across your business. Or use it as an opportunity to talk about flexible working or other benefits you offer that have helped create a workplace that offers great career opportunities for both men and women.

Transparency in this way is rarely forced upon us and many organisations won’t enjoy being so exposed. Be ready. Don’t just report and publish your data … understand it, own it and take control of what it says about your brand.