Tuesday 2 April 2019 5:51 pm

If you want to close the gender pay gap, avoid these quick fixes

Follow Rebecca Hilsenrath

This Thursday, 4 April, is the deadline for private and charity sector employers to submit reports on the gender pay gap within their organisation.

The fact is that most employers have a gender pay gap, and the reasons behind them will differ in every case.

Here are some of the most common pitfalls to watch out for when it comes to closing the gap.

Only using unconscious bias training

Gender bias can creep in when recruitment and promotion decisions are being made. After all, we are only human, and will sometimes stereotype or hold preconceptions.

It is tempting to think that we can correct this bias by simply enrolling staff on a short training course. However, recent research from the Equality and Human Rights Commission has presented a mixed picture of the effectiveness of unconscious bias training courses, suggesting that training alone is unlikely to eliminate it.

Employers who undertake these courses should be applauded for taking steps to eradicate bias, but a better solution might be to include such training as part of a wider inclusion strategy, with transparent internal recruitment and reward processes.

Promoting all the women

Often the reason for a large gender pay gap is because men occupy the most senior positions in the organisation.

It might be tempting to start suddenly promoting women in mid-level or lower-level positions to balance this, but this is likely to backfire if the promotions are not based on merit and are deemed to be tokenistic.

Instead, look at your overall pipeline of staff, personal development plans, flexible working policies, and mentoring schemes to make sure everyone has an opportunity to reach their full potential.

Cutting male staff’s pay

Cutting pay or bonuses may temporarily shrink your gender pay gap, but doing this will only serve to cause resentment among your staff, and could give rise to equal pay claims.

Better to take a step back and consider why men are over-represented at the top of your organisation. What are the barriers to women entering, staying, and flourishing in your organisation? And how can you remove them?

Appointing a female tsar to fix the problem

Having an accountable champion for gender equality as part of a wider inclusion strategy is a sensible move. However, appointing someone purely because they are female, or appointing any figurehead without giving them full board support, won’t help change your culture.

It must be the responsibility of the whole leadership team, not just women, to take action on reducing the gender pay gap.

Outsourcing low paid jobs

Attempts to fudge gender pay gap figures by outsourcing your lower paid jobs will not help to address the real reason why women often hold these roles in your workplace.

Question how flexible your workplace is for people with caring commitments? Do you offer job shares or part-time roles? Every organisation will be different.

An organisation’s pay gap is usually caused by a number of factors that have contributed over a significant period of time.

This is why we recommend probing your data and talking to staff. That way, you can come up with the right action plan for you to break down any barriers that women may face in your workplace.

Suggestions for what employers can do to close their pay gap can be found here.

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