There are around 10,000 organisations in the UK that employ over 250 people and last week was the deadline for publishing the data on what they pay their staff – crucially identifying the difference in earnings between their male and female employees. How were the figures reported? The mean figure is the total salary bill divided by the number of employees. The median figure is the employee right in the middle.
It gets interesting when you break down the pay by gender because this is where the disparities appear. To be clear, this is not about different rates of pay between men and women for doing the same job – that has been illegal for over 40 years – it’s about proportionality.
Ideally, a company would have 0% as its gender pay gap. That would indicate that there was a fairly even distribution of men and women at all levels of the company – and all being paid appropriate rates – which is an unlikely scenario. As it turns out, fewer than 2,000 companies reported gender pay gaps of less than 3%.
It’s not a perfect statistical methodology – but obvious flaws notwithstanding, the exercise does highlight some of the differences in men and women’s working patterns: different occupations, part-time roles being predominantly female – and the lack of women in senior roles.
Take low cost airline, Ryanair for example. It reported a pay gap of 72%, the worst in the sector. This essentially means that women are paid 33p for every £1 a male earns. Ryanair says that only 8 of their pool of their 554 pilots are female. Most women in the company are cabin crew earning considerably less than pilots. Ryanair says they’re committed to encouraging more women into the profession. At the other end of the scale, female staff earn more on average than men at St Paul’s Girls’ School as they do at Harvey Nicholls and Prada. But for vast majority, it’s women who appear to be losing out in the earnings – simply on the basis of their gender.
There are examples of companies who make a particular effort to promote gender equality through better recruitment procedures and enhancing maternity benefits and generally being more flexible. But the headline news is that women are still woefully under represented at senior and board level – this has to change for the good of all our society, not just women.
It should also be noted that there is also a pay gap between graduates and non-graduates. According to 2016 Labour Force Survey figures, the average graduate earned £9,500 more a year than the average non-graduate. Well, they’d need to if only to pay back the huge loans they’d racked up for the pleasure of being at uni. And, this is an average figure. Doctors, lawyers and accountants, traditionally all requiring degrees, are also high earning professions, though it should be noted that lawyers and accountants no longer need to go to university. The value of many university degrees is still questionable. That more women should be aiming for – and encouraged to achieve – top earning positions is not.