What does the gender pay gap mean for women?

Katya Hamilton-Smith, Strategic Communications Intern

At midnight on 4th April, all companies of over 250 employees were required to calculate and publish the average difference between the amount of money paid to men versus the amount paid to women. Companies such as KMPG, Coca Cola and Google all published their figures amongst others to find that, based on median hourly pay, women are paid less than men in 7,795 out of 10,016 companies and public bodies in the UK.

On closer inspection, it was clear to see industries who are the biggest culprits of undervaluing female staff were construction, education and financial services. These are just some of the vast range of findings that the research provided, hopefully shining a much-needed light on the gender inequalities that are rife within the workplace. In research published by The Guardian, it was found that in some companies women were effectively working for free during the final months of the year in comparison with their male counterparts who were receiving a full wage. The presentation of the data in that visual format really exposed the gender discrimination issue that we have.

The figures don’t show discrimination of women in terms of being paid less for doing the same job as men, but the figures do highlight organisational inequalities that we should all be aware of. The publishing of the results has brought to light debates on why women aren’t paid as much as men, uncovering issues such as part-time work, undervalued female staff and favouring men in higher and more powerful positions within a company. With all this research being done, it is imperative that we use it to change the tune.

In the build-up to the results being published, it was widely discussed across many media outlets about why this gap exists and how we can go about closing it. An issue that women often face and will continue to face is that of taking time out of work to have children. Women are more likely to participate in part-time work when looking after a child, therefore restricting the level of promotion available to them. Of course, this isn’t true in every case.

So, what should we do with the results?

It’s all very well publishing the results and seeming shocked when you see them, but if they’re not used to combat the issue, then you have to ask what is the point? It’s important that we use these results to make a change in the future of British business, tackling real problems that have presented the results as they are.

However, it is worth noting that this is not going to happen overnight, and the problems that have been uncovered as we begin to work on this discrepancy will take a long time to solve. It’s not the first time anyone’s heard of gender-based discrimination in the workplace, and in many cases, clearly it still hasn’t been addressed, so I wouldn’t expect the problem to be an easy one to solve. But, now that the figures have been exposed so plainly, companies will have a real incentive to introduce a fairer workplace for all employees regardless of gender.

As a woman myself, I would like to see that things change in the coming years, but to an equal state. By no means should every powerful position in a workforce be held by a woman, but a fair split is the goal to work for.

In terms of moving forward, it appears to me that rather than just paying women more, or promoting them into higher positions within a company, there is a mentality that needs to be addressed.

From a PR perspective how can companies move forward from this?

Transparency is key in situations like this. Now that the figures have been published we can start to move on and address the problems that have been uncovered. Firms will need to adopt an approach to rectifying the problem and do so in a way that appears uncontrived and genuine. Frequently communicating their progress will ensure that a company’s reputation remains intact and people can view the efforts that they’re making to close the gap. But, again, this isn’t going to be an overnight fix. It will take a mentality change before we start to see some genuine progress.

Watch this space.

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