How to close the gender pay gap

In this guest blog post Jenny Kelly, client relationship manager – business partner at Computer Futures, talks about how companies can increase diversity in their organisation and end the gender pay gap commonly found in male dominated industries such as tech.

In recent years, the gender pay gap has become a popular topic of discussion both in and outside of the technology industry. There’s a significant number of diverse people fighting for equal pay and opportunities, with campaigns such as 50:50 Parliament and #TimesUp helping to raise awareness of this movement.

Gender pay gap legislation is leading change

In April 2017, the UK introduced new legislation that requires companies with over 250 employees to publish their gender pay gap data. It was also revealed last year that the gender pay gap was 16.9% in the UK – with the media highlighting the gender pay gaps in some of the biggest organisations, such as the BBC. In this case, some male employees took pay cuts in order to help make the salaries more evenly weighted.

More recently, Iceland have made it illegal to pay male and female workers different wages, becoming the first country to do so. It’s hoped that, now the government has introduced these measures, the gender gap will start to close.

One of the great things about the new gender pay legislation is that more companies are looking for ways to improve not just their pay gap, but diversity in general.

Introducing #MindTheGap

At the beginning of 2017, I introduced the #MindTheGap campaign. I wanted to create a community where everyone could share their efforts in trying to close the gap in the science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) industries – whether that was pay, gender, ethnicity, or age. I’d seen the journey my own workplace had gone on to improve these areas and wanted to share insight with others.

As the Office for National Statistics explains, although the gender gap has reduced over the last 10 years, “The gender pay gap for full-time workers is entirely in favour of men for all occupations; however, occupational crowding has an effect since those occupations with the smallest gender pay gap have almost equal employment shares between men and women.”

Take steps to close the pay gap

Having spoken with a number of companies in my career, the thing most have in common is a lack of female representation at senior level. If this sounds familiar, there are steps that you can take to help improve this.

Mentoring and sponsorship is an incredibly effective way to support females throughout the business and empower them to get to the top. From my own experience, women are less likely to apply for a job if they don’t tick all the required and desired skills/experience boxes, so businesses need to do more to encourage them to put themselves forward for promotions and senior roles. Those at senior level should also be looking out for emerging talent coming through the business, working with them as a mentor to develop their skills.

Leadership Programmes, which females are encouraged to apply for also help. This comes back to supporting employees and provide any training necessary to get them to senior level. Having a company-wide programme in place can encourage those who want to get to senior level to reach out and ask for training. Typically these programmes are aimed at existing managers. And as managers move into more senior roles, those within the company should be invited to fill the manager’s previous role.

Finally, supporting those returning to work is incredibly important. Whether they’ve gone on a sabbatical or are returning from maternity leave, they’ll need support when coming back to the workplace. Shared parental leave and agile working can prove very useful but is rarely encouraged within the business; just letting people know about it could have a significant impact, enabling a better work/life balance.

If an employee goes on maternity leave, the key is agreeing with the person upfront about the level of contact they want while they’re away and what they want to be involved in. It’s always good to be asked/get invited to things whilst they’re off, then they get to decide rather than being left out completely whilst they’re off.

Whilst all of these steps appear to be small, they lead to change.

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