Sumita Ketkar: What can employers learn from gender pay gap reporting?


It is hardly a revelation that employers are not enthusiastic about announcing their gender pay gap figures, even as the April 2018 deadline approaches. As of the first week of November 2017, only 204 of 9,000 organisations based in the UK had announced their figures, and only a small minority of these were forthright in talking about the underlying issues.

Are there lessons to be learnt from these front-runners that have published their gender pay gap data before the deadline? Absolutely. Understanding granularity in these figures is key. Predictably, in industries such as banking and finance, both the mean and median pay gap is almost twice the national average, and the bonus gap is even more glaring.

The well-intentioned reporting regulation is unlikely to mitigate the pay gap problem but it can get the ball rolling by facilitating a more concerted effort of changing organisational culture and challenging stereotypes using a multi-pronged approach. For example, improvements can be made to narrow the gap by encouraging the use of flexible-working practices, mentoring women for board roles, and supporting a culture where men equally share parental duties. Beyond reporting, it will be important to see how employers, with their reputation at stake, engage their internal stakeholders into the narrative.

Some proactive organisations have shown a clear intent of hiring more women in top positions and across the spectrum. Years to come will show the extent to which these promises are fulfilled. It has been nearly half a century since the Equal Pay Law was passed, and 50 years on we are still trying to predict how many years it will take for women to be treated equally to men, at least in terms of fair pay. The marginal increase in the overall gender pay gap figure published in October 2017 in the Office for National Statistics’ Annual survey of hours and earnings gender pay gap tables is another stark reminder of the need to go beyond lip service and make both systemic and structural changes.

Sumita Ketkar is senior lecturer in leadership and professional development at Westminster Business School