Why we’re embracing radical transparency to tackle social, gender and ethnic inequalities at PwC

Kevin Ellis
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A view of Canary Wharf
Britain's biggest employers can seem a long way off for disadvantaged young people (Source: Getty)

There is little doubt that trust in business isn’t riding high.

The feelings of distrust towards big business sparked by the 2008 financial crisis remain and, to some degree, have been reignited by the EU referendum vote. Recognising this, Theresa May pledged in her first speech as Prime Minister to make Britain a country that “works not for the privileged few, but for every one of us”.

This pledge is something of a call to action. My view is that, to rebuild public trust in business, we need to work harder to demonstrate shared values with the communities in which we operate. That means recognising the issues that matter most to people and addressing these head on.

A small step in doing this could be to be more open and honest about how issues of inequality are being tackled in the workplace and holding ourselves accountable to make changes.

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In 2014, there was nervousness when we published our gender pay gap analysis. But we decided that, regardless of the actual figure, publishing it externally for everyone to see would drive action.

And it did. Reporting our figure, which this year is 15.2 per cent, has raised awareness of the issue across our firm. Rather than a few people striving to make changes, there is a collective sense of action. Equally, last year we removed Ucas points as entry criteria for our graduate roles and this has led to us hiring graduates from broader social backgrounds than ever before. In our 2015 student intake of over 1,600, 38 per cent were first generation graduates, 73 per cent attended state school, 14 per cent came from homes eligible for income support, and 9 per cent were eligible for school meals.

Our people tell us that they are proud to work for an organisation that has publicly committed to prioritising these important issues.

Gender pay gap reporting will become the norm for all large businesses soon, due to the government’s new legislation. But gender pay inequality is just one area that businesses should be looking at. Biases and structural issues still exist in UK business that mean your race, background, gender and the school you went to will play a role in dictating your future.

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That’s why in our second digital annual report, launched today, we’re trying to be open and transparent about the issues that we know matter the most to people. So as well as publishing our gender pay gap, this year we will also include data on the social backgrounds of our 2015 student intake, our gender and ethnicity targets for all job roles (and our progress against these) and the ratio between our average partner pay in relation to our average employee salary (12.8 multiple compared to 13.6 in 2015). And we will continue to report on our progress in these areas – whether the results are good or bad.

Our digital annual report also means that our progress is available for everyone to see. The data isn’t buried in the back of a pdf document. Instead we’ve used data visualisation to tell our story.

We know that as a business we don’t always get it right, and our figures may not always necessarily go in the direction we want.

We believe this is a bold step, but the only way to make sure that we are a business where anyone, regardless of background, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, can reach their full potential. Publishing it in this way demonstrates to our people, clients and the public that, for us, thinking responsibly about our workforce isn’t just lip service, but integral to the fabric of our firm.

To see the full set of statistics, read PwC’s annual report at www.pwcannualreport.co.uk

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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