What is the gender pay gap?
According to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, “The gender pay gap is the difference in average pay between the men and women in your workforce. It is different to equal pay, which means you must pay men and women the same for equal or similar work.” It calculates the total pay of all men and total pay of all women in your organisation, divides these figures by the number of men and women to create the average pay for each and displays the difference as a percentage of the higher figure.
For example, if you employ 20 men and the total of all their salaries is £1m the average pay for men is £50,000. If you also employ 30 women and the total of all their salaries is £1.2m the average pay for women is £40,000. The difference of £10,000 as a percentage of £50,000 is 20%. There is a gender pay gap of 20% in this organisation.
One of the important things that gender pay gap data shows is the distribution of earning levels between men and women within an organisation or industry. This correlates to the level of seniority of positions that men and women hold and therefore, the influence and impact they will likely have in any given company.
Why is the data valid?
Since 2017 all organisations that employ more than 250 people have had to publish their gender pay gap data as mandatory. Specific methods and criteria are used to calculate the figures and results must be presented in a certain way. You can find these reports for any organisation of this size within our industry on the government website.
This data can then be used to illustrate a country or sector’s gender pay gap. That said, it’s good to remember that many industries such as estate agencies are made up of small businesses that don’t have to report their figures, so much remains unknown.
Why does it matter who we hear from about this?
So, we now know that the gender pay gap highlights the disparity of position and seniority within an organisation and we are far less likely to hear the voices of those holding positions in the lowest quartile of any given company. It is a greatly missed opportunity when a conversation highlighting that very fact doesn’t bring those voices to the table. As women in our industry, we do not wish to speak on behalf of others, but we also do not want the experience of those, who may have fewer opportunities to speak up, to be misrepresented and dismissed.
There are many people interrogating and highlighting the gender pay gap in the UK worth listening to. Gill Whitty-Collins, Michelle Gyimah, Harriet Waley-Cohen and the work of Joeli Brearley at Pregnant Then Screwed can all be found on LinkedIn. They explore the data and discuss the systemic issues behind it, produce and share their own research and offer ways that we can all play our part in positively influencing the gender pay gap.
Why this should matter to everyone
The facts speak for themselves. Research across many studies shows us that organisations that have a greater percentage of women in senior positions (and therefore a reduced gender pay gap) are more profitable and more sustainable. In 2021 “FTSE 350 companies with no women on their executive committees experienced significant losses of -17.5%... and those with over 50% secured a profit margin of 21.2%.”
They are also happier places to work with a more productive force. Increasingly, a new generation wants to belong to organisations whose values align with theirs: ones that are socially responsible, provide safer, higher-quality customer experience and whereby reward is not purely fiscal. Companies with more senior women deliver these things too.
We must acknowledge that our gender pay gap is pretty disappointing, but this also provides us with the possibility to do and be better. Leadership for the future of our industry will not mirror the leadership of the past. The pandemic, the rise of self-employed models and the expectations of those coming into the industry in their 20s and 30s are demanding a fresh approach to leadership; one that requires a diversity of thought, breadth of cultural experience and tangible demonstration of a commitment to equity and equality.
This is a conversation that needs to be had; it's not easy and it's not comfortable but it is absolutely necessary. And ultimately it will be rewarding for everyone who wants to thrive in an industry that we are all very proud to be a part of.
Article was co-written by Nicola Broomham – Director of Client Solutions at deverellsmith, Susan Gregory – Organisational Development Consultant and Ellie Reese – Co-owner and Director at Brickworks.
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