As part of UKCBC’s Business and Management Bachelor’s Top-up Degree, students must complete a compulsory module titled Strategic Human Resource Management. An important topic covered in this module is the role of gender and its effects in the workplace.

The module was designed in part to prepare students looking to work in human resource management for workplace gender-related issues, a topic the government is keen to address. A legally required gender pay gap report (which looks at the average hourly wage of all men and women across a workforce) was enforced in 2017, with a report submission date of 4th April of each year (2018 marked the first year of the publicly available report). 

On Wednesday, 23rd May, UKCBC welcomed Gender Research and Policy Manager, Kaammini Chanrai, from the Prince’s Trust charity Business in the Community to discuss the fallout from the gender pay gap report. Ms Chanrai began the presentation (available at Ulearn) by giving students the bottom line on the report: “The current gender pay gap is 18.4%.”  Although not illegal (like unequal pay), having a gender pay gap “does ask companies some difficult moral questions.” Indeed, Ms Chanrai invited students to question why “80% of organisations in the UK pay on average men more than women.” 

Ms Chanrai went on to talk about what details companies with over 250 employees were asked to provide for their gender pay gap report, which included mean and median hourly pay; the mean and median for bonuses; the proportion of male and female employees that received bonuses; and the proportion of male and female employees in each pay quartile. While this is a good start to addressing the gender pay gap, “there are some really stark things missing from these [reports] as well… [namely,] pay grades.” Pay grades help show if employees are being paid on an equal level; in contrast, averages can significantly skew results if there are extremes at the top and bottom end of earners at a company.  

Next, students were encouraged to think about the future of gender pay gap reporting, specifically how results can extend out to include other potentially marginalised groups. Ms Chanrai introduced the concept of intersectionality as an example of an area of interest for Business in the Community: “The idea of intersectionality is looking at something with multiple lenses… if we’re looking at inequality between men and women, it’s also important to look at that through the inequality of race.” The current reporting measures address critical issues, but these issues do not exist in isolation; the working experience for a white woman in comparison with a black woman may be very different and would, thus, need to be addressed alongside the gender pay gap.   

The gender pay gap report has predominantly focused on employer reactions; Business in the Community, however, was interested in employees’ reactions, specifically if gender pay gap reporting affects job seeker attitudes. “When we asked organisations whether they thought a gender pay gap existed, the majority (around 80%) said ‘yes, we think it exists,’ but only about 20-30% thought it existed within their organisation.” Having the information readily available is a useful tool for those seeking to work with a company with progressive gender parity principles.  

But why does the gender pay gap exist? Ms Chanrai outlined three structural reasons that significantly contribute to the gender pay gap’s existence in the UK: gender discrimination, in which a working culture, by default, makes it difficult for women to exist as they are (having time off to have a baby, for example, negatively impacts women’s professional lives more than men’s); vertical segregation, where women are underrepresented in higher roles; and horizontal segregation, where women are overrepresented in some industries and part-time roles.  

However, understanding why the gender pay gap exists is often not a simple task, and its presence in a company may be down to specific elements. Ms Chanrai gave the example of Hugo Boss – the fashion brand highlighted a gender pay gap in their retail staff, but followed this information up with an explanation of sorts – “men who worked in retail roles gained commission (as did women) … but the commission they were gaining was higher because the products they were selling were higher in cost.” Knowing exactly where pay disparities come from is essential for addressing the issue, and further measures to help companies rectify their specific gender pay gap are necessary for the future.   

Next time we look at part two of Ms Chanrai’s presentation, in which she discussed work/life balance and how it can impact on the gender pay gap.

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