How can we address the North East’s gender pay gap?

There’s no denying the power of women in business. Britain’s most successful companies tend to be those with a large proportion of women in senior roles (McKinsey & Company), and research conducted by insolvency practitioners KSA Group Limited has found that female-run businesses are less likely to go bust. But, in the North East — and the UK as a whole — three quarters of companies are still paying men more than women.

In recent months, it has been revealed that this issue is affecting a whole host of different organisations, from GP practices to the region’s councils. Things have been moving in the right direction: for example, companies with more than 250 employees have been required to publish their gender gap data since April 2017, and this has caused many business owners to take stock of whether they’re paying their female employees as fairly as the men. But, things could definitely be moving faster.

So, what could North East businesses be doing to help close the region’s pay gap?

Try to include multiple women in shortlists

A number of corporations, such as the accountancy giant PwC, have vowed to ban all-male shortlists when it comes to recruiting and promoting staff. But, according to government advice, this isn’t enough: in order to have the best chance of closing the gender pay gap, businesses need to have multiple women on their shortlists.

In fact, according to The Behavioural Insights Team, if only one in a group of four candidates is a woman, there’s statistically no chance of her being hired. So, while scrapping all-male shortlists can help, you still need to make sure that the female-to-male ratio doesn’t send the implicit message that a man’s going to be better for the job.

Use skill-based assessments when recruiting

You might not think that you consider gender when taking new staff on but, in order to hire more women — especially for high-flying positions — experts recommend using skill-based assessments, rather than solely relying on interviews to tell you who’s right for the job.

Ask candidates to perform tasks that will be required in the role they’ve applied for and use a marking system to keep track of how they do. You should then be able to compare all candidates’ scores and choose the top performer in a fair and standardised way, regardless of gender.

Use salary ranges to encourage negotiations

Countless studies have shown that women are far less likely to negotiate their salaries and ask for more money. And, this can contribute massively to the gender pay gap. To help remedy this, businesses can encourage women to recognise their worth by setting out salary brackets and actively promoting negotiations.

Whether you’re taking on a new member of staff or offering someone a promotion, this can help to give women a push, so they’re more confident about asking for what they deserve.

Appoint a diversity manager

For companies that have the space and budget, employing a diversity manager — or even a diversity task force — can help to monitor and promote diversity within the business when it comes to hiring and promoting people. Department managers will be far less likely to make biased decisions, because they’ll know that their actions could be reviewed at any time. As part of their job, your diversity manager should:

  • have an executive role within your organisation,
  • have access to all of the relevant internal data,
  • be in a position to review and ask questions about decisions relating to diversity, and
  • have the power to implement new strategies and policies.

Not only should having a diversity manager help to ensure that women are better represented and better paid, but it should also have a similar effect on the hiring and promotion of people from black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds.

Improve flexibility within your workplace

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has said that implementing flexible working practices is one of the primary ways to close the gender pay gap. Women often have far more caring responsibilities than men, which can mean they’re unable to work typical hours or remain on-call 24 hours a day. This, in turn, can mean that they’re turned down for jobs and promotions.

Bringing in flexible working practices — whether that’s letting everyone decide their own hours or allowing your staff to work from home when it suits them — can help to limit the impact this has on women’s salaries. It also means men will be able to share responsibilities such as childcare far more easily.

Encourage staff to take Shared Parental Leave

The gender pay gap widens dramatically when women have children. But, if men and women begin to share childcare responsibilities more evenly, it’s likely the gap will start to shrink.

Shared Parental Leave and Pay means that working parents can share up to 50 weeks of leave, and 37 weeks of pay in their child’s first year. But, there are still many families that aren’t taking advantage of this initiative. Employers can help by informing new fathers that they have a legal right to request Shared Parental Leave and provide future parents with all of the guidance they need. Sharing examples of senior employees who’ve gone down this route can also encourage uptake, because staff will see that it’s unlikely to harm their career.

Set internal targets to track your progress

“Reducing our organisation’s gender pay gap” is a very valiant goal, but it’s also huge and relatively vague. So, in order to ensure you’re on track and give yourself something tangible to work towards, it’s worth setting yourself clear and measurable goals that you can tick off along the way. Create specific and time-bound targets by setting out what you want to achieve, and when by. Chances are, you’ll be far more likely to reach your goals in this way.

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