Sarah Pinch – CIPR President
I am 43 years old. Three years before I was born, the equal pay act was introduced. It should be an embarrassment to British business that we still need to discuss this issue, as it is 47 years ago that pay parity was enshrined in law; women should be paid the same as men for doing the same job.
In fact, whilst the gender pay gap is at its lowest, if the gap continues to close at the same rate as it has since 1997, it will take until 2053 to achieve pay parity. I will be 80.
The Government asking organisations over 250 to publish their gender pay data is too little, too late. The Government must look at the barriers that face girls and women at every step. At school. At college. At work. And in society at large.
There are currently 2.4million women in the country who want to work, but cannot. For a variety of reasons; and there are 600k unfilled jobs in the UK. Actual jobs that are vacant.
How many of those unfilled roles, could be done by women, working at home, flexibly around their family responsibilities? How many women are limited in their career choices by stereotyping, from an early age? Where is the government’s initiative to get more female role models into schools to talk about their careers and their successes? And why is it that in 2016 a request to work part time is still seen as indicative of a lack of ambition?
Contribution to Business
The Women’s Business Council has calculated that if we equalise women’s employment to that of men by 2030, we can add at least 10% to GDP. Closing the gender pay gap is good for business. It is good for Great Britain. So, whilst I applaud the Government for asking companies to publish their data on gender pay, merely publishing information is not enough.
Business must have a clear approach, timed, detailed approach to closing their gender pay gap, improving the number of women in senior positions and by so doing they will return more investment to their shareholders.
The gender pay gap is not a problem for women. It is not a problem for men. It is a problem for the UK, for everyone. The Government’s own Equalities Office undertook research in 2014, which showed that the majority of employers considered ensuring they have no gender pay gap is a priority. But only a small proportion had a planned approach for reducing the gap.
What’s the point in asking larger organisations to publish data, without there being any action to follow?
We must have a roadmap – that starts at the very beginning, as all journeys do with one step. The first step on this journey is not about equality. It is about equity.
It is not about creating a level playing field. We must explain the rules every step of the way. We must be clear on what is possible and what is not. We must support each other; we must defend each other. We must help each other. And if it’s necessary we have to do it over and over again.
The inspirational politician Madeline Albright once said ‘there is a special place in hell for women who will not support other women’ and I believe that. We must call for changes that are far deeper, far more wide reaching, than merely bringing out an excel spreadsheet with a blue line and a pink line for men and women’s salaries.
Together – men and women, parents and those without their own children, politicians and citizens, accountants and public relations professionals, lawyers and football players – we must all support women to equity; at all times.
Companies and government must do the right thing. For their economic growth, and because it is morally right. Graphs and stats will not go anywhere near far enough.