Is your gender pay gap stagnating?

For the second year, organisations with more that 250 employees are expected to publish their UK gender pay gap data by 4th April 2019.

With the deadline for reporting gender pay gap right now, almost every UK organisation with more than 250 employees will have already calculated their gender pay for the past 12 months.

No change may feel like a win, especially if you’re aware that some businesses are posting figures that are up on last year.

But no change is not success, though equally, it’s not a great surprise either.

Sorting out a gender pay gap is not a quick ‘fix’.

Nor is it a question of rhetoric or of getting the story straight.

I agree that communications is vital to effective diversity/inclusion programmes. However, too much of gender pay gap reporting is about justifying the unacceptable. Too much senior time is spent fiddling with the wording on these documents or deciding how to respond to questions from journalists. Leaders need to leave the PR team alone and sit down with effective strategists to figure out one question: how do we ensure there are more women among our top earners? Why are women being excluded at the moment? How quickly can we change those conditions?

A gender pay gap means that half of the population in the UK is excluded from the top, best rewarded jobs in your organisation.

Gender parity is not a minority issue – it is a fundamental question of social injustice which has to be eradicated, employer by employer.

And it is vital to use this moment to think about what can be done to ensure improvement into next year – and beyond.

Get more data

It could be that 12 months is not enough time to change policies, processes and behaviours that may be limiting female employees from accessing the most senior and well-remunerated roles. Has your gender pay gap stagnated? Will the strategies that are in place be sufficient to bring about change in the medium term?

The only way to get on track with change is to understand why 12 months of action have made no impact – then you can plan on what to do differently. Use data to plot your expectations for how the gender pay gap will change in coming years and to ensure that you are doing enough to make a difference moving forwards.

Be bold

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to make a dramatic impact on your gender pay gap performance within 12 months. By doing so, you will send a powerful message of equality and inclusion to your workforce, customers and business partners. You will demonstrate that you are a progressive management team, willing to change behaviours in order to do the right thing.

Could you set targets for the number of senior female recruits and promotions in the next 12 months? Create programmes to re-fast track high performing women who may have taken a sideways or downwards step in order to better accommodate the demands of a young family? Ensure your next board level promotion is a female? Or that your next major project has a female leadership team? Could you work with experts that specialise in recruiting senior women? Leave no stone unturned and be prepared to reach beyond your company’s comfort zone to create senior opportunities for women.

Refocus energies on existing strategies

Sometimes only small adjustments are required to get your business back on track for gender parity. It could be that a once excellent female mentoring programme is languishing because someone has left, or that current political and economic uncertainty has shifted away from a focus on employee development.

Use gender pay gap reporting as the opportunity to review all of your gender programmes to ensure that they are delivering results. Ask women (and men) what more could be done to create opportunities – and act on these suggestions. Reinvigorate strategies that are working. Delete or re-invent those that are not delivering results. Create workshops, forums and brainstorms to discuss new ideas. This is a time for planting the seeds that will deliver results in the future. Keep going and you will get back on track.

Show your determination and publicly recommit to change

No individual or organisation enjoys a plateau in their lives. But everyone admires the energy that determination brings.

If your organisation’s gender pay gap has not moved since last year, make sure that people know the business is with that situation.

Leaders should communicate their frustration with the gender pay gap situation to the workforce as well as their determination to get back on an improvement track for next year. Ask for help and input from employees, business partners and advisors. Ensure that your employees know that there is an achievable plan in place and that you are determined to make a difference.


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If you’d like to speak to one of our team on refocusing your Gender Pay Gap efforts, please e-mail us on

For the second year, organisations with more that 250 employees are expected to publish their UK gender pay gap data by 4th April 2019.

We know this is a big issue for larger employers. Even businesses who have a positive story to tell have reservations about revealing their data.

So, what if your organisation is facing a negative situation? What happens next if you find that your gender pay gap has actually increased since 2018?

The good news is that this doesn’t have to be a reason to panic. In fact, this could be the moment that prompts change that will be beneficial across the whole business in many unforeseen ways.

It is however also the moment to take decisive action to ensure that the trend is reversed.

Here are some key steps to get you on the track to recovery.

Use data to clarify, not argue the problem away

Gender pay gap data is a snapshot of one month. This can lead to misleading information or an incomplete picture. Ask your data analysts to spend more time looking at the data to establish the true scale of the problem and also to pinpoint where the issues lie.

This is especially important if you already have a number of gender initiatives in place. If these aren’t helping to whittle down the gender pay gap, you need to understand more about where the real problems lie and what is happening to differences in gender pay in more detail.

However – don’t be tempted to use data analysis to argue the problem away or reduce its importance. Accept that you have an issue and that you need to change.

Communicate regret, stay positive and consistent

Ensure senior leaders are on board to share clear, consistent messages across the organisation. This needs to communicate that change is planned and that management will not accept the current situation with regard to pay disparity. It is also appropriate to communicate regret and concern. This is a moment to show that you care and that you will be a catalyst for change.

Remember that communications is two-way, so encourage employees to express their views and also to provide input on how the situation can be changed. Feedback is essential for improvement and the best feedback is from your employees.

Plan quick wins when creating the action plan

Once you have a clear picture of where the issues lie, prioritise sorting out gender pay gaps that can be quickly resolved. Fast action – even quite small gestures – communicates volumes about an organisation’s values and intentions. Share early successes with employees and other stakeholders as this will encourage more action.

At the same time, design an action plan that deals with problems that require more long-term or fundamental solutions. Plot how you will address these and when you hope to see the impact of changes. So, for example, if the key issue is recruiting more senior women and this is an area that you have found challenging in the past, what are the barriers and how are you going to identify or appeal to the available talent in future?

Be inclusive in creating the solution

Invite women to participate in the process of identifying solutions. Consider involving people from other organisations that know you well – for example, recruiters, colleges and universities from which you regularly recruit, agencies and consultants – as they will bring useful and external insights.

Be bold

If your gender pay gap is increasing, it is likely that there are fundamental and endemic issues in the organisation. These can be resolved but may require tough measures in order to result in real and long-lasting change. This may require major changes in remuneration, career progression, work arrangements and job requirements in order to promote better pay parity. Be prepared to do initiate measures that will make a real difference, even if they require changing key habits and behaviours. The chances are – the change will be beneficial in many more ways that you imagine.

Don’t wait until next year to monitor and measure

Gender pay gap reporting is a once a year regulatory requirement. Businesses need live data on a regular basis in order to make the best decisions. Once a year is not enough. Ask your finance team to prepare regular pay audits so you can track your progress and identify new strategies to help align pay within your business.

Look at pay splits across other diversities

It is very likely that legislation will be introduced requiring business to report their ethnicity pay gaps. If your business has a rising gender pay gap, it is likely that there will be discrepancies along other diversities, and most prominently, between how BAME and other employees are remunerated. Don’t stop at gender: check to make sure that no one else in your business is losing out because of historic biases and inequalities.

A rising gender pay gap is a difficult situation. However, when it is used as a rallying call for change, it can be a powerful metric that drives better business practice and performance by ensuring greater equality and access to opportunity for all your employees.


Find out more >

If you’d like to speak to one of our team on refocusing your Gender Pay Gap efforts, please e-mail us on

How publishing gender pay gap data could be the best thing for your business.

A few months ago I wrote an article for CEO Today on whether it is the law to be diverse and inclusive. I said the answer is ‘yes’ and increasingly so.

Gender pay gap reporting is the current example of how legal requirements are pressuring businesses to address diversity and inclusion.

It is only applicable in the UK, though Ireland, Germany and France are also considering introducing similar reporting.

There is also currently no penalty for publishing data that reveals inequalities.

With a reporting deadline of 4 April looming, about a quarter of all organisations with more than 250 employees in the UK have uploaded their figures to the government web site.

The media is watching the data closely and picking out the worst offenders.

As a result of these attentions, gender pay gap reporting is creating an uncomfortable situation for boards, as they confront the reality that, despite all their efforts to increase opportunities for women, the best rewarded people in their organisation are still largely male.

The risk in this situation is that leadership focuses so intently on working on narratives that might serve to ‘spin’ the problem away, that they don’t listen to the lessons of data.

Data is so useful! The majority of diversity and inclusion programmes start with research and analysis.

So, while the requirement to make gender pay gap data public is uncomfortable, there is no doubt that it can help enormously in enabling organisations to rethink their gender programmes so they are truly effective.

The journey of any organisation towards greater diversity and inclusion starts with the recognition that exclusions and discrimination exist, usually by analysing data, followed by a heartfelt determination to bring about change, usually from the CEO.

While companies may feel uncomfortable admitting that their business pays women less than men, I would exhort every company to use this as an opportunity to have a plan for closing the gender pay gap right now, for commercial reasons.

It is an understatement to say that any company that publishes an increased gender pay gap when the revised figures are due in 2019 will be in something of a difficult situation.

Organisations that tender for public contracts, in particular, may find that gender pay gap data becomes a requirement in future RFPs.

So make sure you act now to lower your gender pay gap.

The solutions do not need to be complicated, though they will require commitment.

For example, focus on developing female employees and encourage them to seek promotion.

Encourage more women to work for you by highlighting policies that will help them to balance a career with the likelihood that at some point, they will wish to start a family.

Review the structure and demands of senior roles to make them friendly to those who need to juggle family priorities. Organisations are starting to demonstrate that it is possible to have a CEO that works part time or virtually, or to have two people who share the role. Be open to new paradigms that make it easier for women to apply and make a success of those senior roles.

Tailor your efforts to appeal to women who are returning to work. This is a highly skilled group that is often overlooked by companies that focus too narrowly on recent experience. Women returning from maternity leave or a career break often accept more junior positions at a lower salary because companies have concerns about their ability to deliver. The result is the gender pay gap keeps widening.

Be mindful of how you treat your suppliers and their female employees. Set your expectations at a level that is consistent with human as well as commercial needs so you become a truly inclusive ‘corporate citizen’ within your value chain.

Stamp on all behaviour that excludes, marginalises or belittles women who work part time or flexibly. Encourage women to speak out if they are ever made to feel uncomfortable because they work in a way that is consistent with their family commitments.

Above all, leaders, walk the talk, especially if you are male. Men are also parents. Take time out to watch the nativity play. Work from home when your baby is sick and can’t go to childcare. Leave on time so you can be there to play with them and tuck them into bed.

They say it takes a little grit and irritation for an oyster to create a pearl, and this is a useful metaphor here.

Gender pay gap reporting is undoubtedly an irritant for many businesses. Yet it could lead to greater equality and access to female talent, which has been demonstrated to have significant business benefit.

MCSI recently found that gender-diverse companies are more productive, as an example.

As they say, no pain, no gain. Let’s get through gender pay gap reporting, and when we’re out the other side, let’s do something about it, so that we can all make our businesses better places for everyone.