The UK's gender pay gap is not a moral issue, but a business one

Heather Jackson
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"It’s a gender battle in a talent war" (Source: Getty)

A survey carried out by the Chartered Management Institute and the pay analysts XPertHR reported a 22 per cent gender pay gap at management level – with women earning far less than their male counterparts.

This translates to women working effectively 57 days for free.

This is unacceptable, but do the statistics really show a true representation of the issue? Let’s face it: if men thought they were being underpaid compared to women, this would have been sorted out a long time ago.

However, salaries are not paid simply on the role you are doing – they are paid on your experiences, talent, skills, and ability to negotiate effectively.

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You can’t compare someone who hasn’t taken a career break, who’s negotiated hard, upskilled themselves and gained international experience with someone, possibly a woman, who has taken a career break or has stayed within the same organisation for their whole career. It’s not comparing like for like.

By companies choosing to close their gender pay gap, they are committing to not reward gender, but reward talent. This is not a moral issue, but a business one.

Businesses must accept that pay should be based on merit. It’s about the best talent leading organisations, regardless of gender, and by not paying those skilled women equally to their male counterparts, businesses risk losing that talent. We must recognise that it’s a gender battle in a talent war now.

So how can we ensure equal gender pay?

Yes, it’s about transparency of pay, but it’s also about transparency of the rules of the game and how to get that pay. One of the biggest weaknesses women have is their inequality of negotiation skills. We have to absolutely nail it as women to negotiate for what we’re worth.

Life doesn’t always give us what we deserve, but it does get us what we negotiate for - and more women have to have the confidence to recognise their skills and capabilities and to build on their contacts and networks to ensure that they are getting what they believe they’re worth.

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Companies are now recognising that the problem lies in the talent pipeline, and they must work closely with women to give them the support, guidance and direction that they need to help them get their careers to the top and to ensure the best talent is leading their organisation. Companies with a better gender balance outperform ones without, behaviourally and financially, better balance is better business.

The future isn’t bad for the women who are just starting their careers now; they can get the equality of pay they deserve.

The ones more affected are women who are already in significantly high positions in their career and who haven’t had the support, direction and negotiation skills to get what they deserve.

If we can empower the next generation of women with those skills, then it’s a step in the right direction of ensuring companies have the best talent to lead organisations and that everyone can get paid what they are worth, regardless of gender.

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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