March 2018


"More women in decision-making roles equals higher profit"

"There is a direct correlation, for example, between the number women on boards and in senior positions and company performance. Simply put, more women in decision-making roles equals higher profit."


Closing the Gender Pay Gap is not just the right thing to do - it is just plain good business sense, says Sally Arkley, director of Women's Economy

There is a culture-quake going on. It will eventually revolutionise the world of work and therefore how we live our everyday lives.

You can be forgiven for not noticing or, if you have noticed, for thinking it doesn’t overly concern you. I’m talking about the issue of the gender pay gap - and it concerns every single one of us.

First, let’s understand what the Gender Pay Gap (GPG) is and what it is not. It is not the same as the equal pay issue; that is, equal pay for work categorised as equal, first legislated for in 1970 (and too often ignored) and reinforced by the Equality Act, 2010.

The GPG is the measurement of the difference between men’s and women’s earnings across the economy. As the BBC knows to its cost, it is increasingly used as a measure of gender pay

disparity in individual organisations. It records the average earnings of women as a percentage of average male earnings. Currently the overall GPG in the UK is 18.1%.

GPG shines a light on an abiding socio-economic issue that is fundamental to the structure of the world of work across the globe and always has been. It will take nothing less than

that culture-quake I mentioned to change – but change it should and change it will. That the journey must begin is recognised in the UK by legislation (effective from April 2018) which will compel all companies with more than 250 employees to publish their gender pa gap stats.

What the GPG highlights is that work everywhere is built to accommodate the needs of a male workforce and that trying to ‘fit’ women into the prevailing structure only results in

institutional discrimination. The only way to deal with this is to change the structure.

There is a GPG because women:

*  do not reach senior positions in sufficient numbers

*  are disproportionately represented in low-paid work

*  lose out on promotion by taking breaks for child-rearing

*  consistently receive smaller bonuses and, yes, still receive lower pay for work of equal status

* suffer as a result of unconscious bias and stereotypical attitudes * and are often held back by their own, sometimes crippling, lack of confidence in their abilities.

Alarmingly, in an increasingly science-and-technology-based economy, the lack of girls studying these subjects, if not addressed, will make the GPG of today look like nothing to

worry about. For years the accepted wisdom has been: “Well, that’s how it is. Women have babies”(followed by the unspoken “Get over it”). Well, hey, that’s not how it is any longer. Slowly,

but inevitably, we are seeing the rise of agile (flexible) working for men and women, improved paternity leave, the reorganisation of home life with more stay-at- home male partners, initiatives to encourage girls into science and technology-based careers, the

proliferation of women’s corporate leadership programmes and an increasing body of research by large private organisations (for example McKinsey and Goldman Sachs) on the benefits of encouraging women into senior positions.

Don’t imagine that this is an outbreak of universal feminism or a burning quest for social justice. No, this is because it is becoming increasingly obvious that maximising the exploitation of female talent is an economic imperative.

Women matter to the bottom line. There is a direct correlation, for example, between the number women on boards and in senior positions and company performance. Simply put, more women in decision making roles = higher profit. In a world where women actually make the majority of purchasing decisions, it make sense to involve women at every level in the production of goods to sell.

The pressing skills shortage in science and technology is increasingly forcing government and private industry to do the obvious; make these subjects more girl-friendly to study and spend serious money to encourage girls and young women into the industry.

Women’s increasing awareness of their own power, and the global economy’s hunger for talent wherever it can find it, are both driving unprecedented change. The way forward, of course, won’t be easy, but you can be sure that there is no way back.


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