5 April 2017

STEM gender pay….

Q. My business is in a sector in which female talent at a senior level is very hard to recruit, so our gender pay gap (GPG) is high. How can I show that this is not because we discriminate against women in relation to pay?

A. There are a number of employers, particularly in engineering and technology businesses in the UK who face a particular challenge when it comes to GPG reporting.

If the proportion of females to males in senior positions in an organisation is low, the pay gap will be high. Since only nine per cent of the engineering workforce is female – the UK has the lowest percentage of female engineering professionals in Europe – this workforce shape is hard to avoid, even for the most inclusive of employers.

It can seem very unfair that such employers may be labelled as discriminating against female workers because they report a higher than average GPG. Of course that’s not what the gap means at all, but many people think (wrongly) that it does. With a talent war raging for engineers and science graduates of both genders, this has the potential to create unforeseen and unfavourable consequences for our key manufacturers and innovators.

It is especially important for employers who recognise themselves in this description to think ahead about how they are going to report their GPG, including what narrative they will use alongside the bare statistics. Many such employers are working hard to encourage females from school age upwards to ignore the stereotypes and consider a career in the STEM sector – they should shout about these efforts, celebrate key achievements and tell the stories of those females who have gone on to great things within the organisation.

And for every percentage point shaved off the gap in such organisations in the years ahead, a big cheer should go up.

Employers are fighting not just their own, but society’s, attitudes and stereotypes regarding female aspiration and achievement.  It is a problem to which there is no simple solution.

Ideas for action:

  • Start drafting your GPG narrative now – if it looks sparse, you’ve got 12 months to improve on it
  • Work with marketing/ PR teams to work out how you can best tell your gender story
  • Mark International Women in Engineering Day on 23 June and record the event with photos and blogs; the theme this year is “Men As Allies”
  • Appoint a senior leader as your Gender Pay Champion – senior sponsorship of your project will be key to its success
  • Engage with local schools, professional bodies, women’s organisations and local communities to listen and really find out what is holding women back from seeing you as a prospective employer

For expert advice on the way forward, contact Jenny Jones, Partner (Barrister) and Head of Employment at Harrison Clark Rickerbys and a specialist in equal pay law and practice for over 10 years, on 01242 216259, 07816 969492, or at jjones@hcrlaw.com.

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About the Author
Jenny Okafor-Jones, Partner (Barrister), Head of Employment & Immigration Team
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