I'm a male chief executive and I want pay transparency - so should you

Nick Baughan
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The City should make pay transparent (Source: Getty)

It’s time for business leaders to end the culture of secrecy over salaries and what men and women earn.

Whether you’re the head of a FTSE 100 conglomerate or a small business entrepreneur, your people need to know that you support transparency and equality over pay.

I’m fully prepared to put my own money where my mouth is.

I run an agency of just over 250 people, I keep a pretty close eye on payroll and I’ve pulled out the numbers. I’m therefore happy to report that women are paid 0.5 per cent more than men at Maxus.

The trouble, historically, has been that it’s extremely hard to police pay equality due to the traditional secrecy surrounding salaries and a complex legal appeals process.

The last government survey using 2013 data put the pay gap at an average of 19.7 percent across the UK, while Eurostat research has shown that women earned an average of 16.4 percent less than men across the European Union in 2013. It’s shocking, frankly.

I shouldn’t need to re-tread why this matters. It’s not just an ethical imperative – two people doing the same job should be paid the same – but pay equality and transparency offer benefits to every business in every sector around improved morale, staff retention and attracting the best talent.

My own industry, media and advertising, is doing fairly well on this front (although I'm certain there’s still room for improvement).

Looking at the UK media agency scene shows an equal number of men and women in chief executive/managing director positions, which suggests that at least the problem isn’t down to an imbalance at the top. However, I know that very few other industries can claim the same.

The advertising industry has started to look at how women are depicted in advertising and is moving away from tired 1950s stereotypes, leading to much fresher, more realistic exploration of female experience.

Look at everything from the HeforShe movement to Always’ ground-breaking "#LikeAGirl" campaign, Fiat’s parenthood ads and L’Oréal’s work with Helen Mirren on why women really are "worth it".

It’s all too easy to talk about it but not so easy to take action, which is why I firmly believe all business leaders should share their numbers and show how much their men and their women get paid. After all, employees look to their leaders to identify problems and then do something about them. Our existing culture of secrecy is simply adding to the injustice.

If more chief executives shared their figures, the debate would become more real and more substantive. Every business leader needs to check his or her number and, even if you don’t share it publicly, then at least share it with your own people.

It’s time pay joined the rest of us in the 21st century.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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