Women typically earn 23% less than their male counterparts and are losing out on a whopping £138bn a year, according to a recent study by the Young Women’s Trust.
The charity found that women in London faced the biggest gap, earning an average of £38,467, around £15,054, less than men in the capital. By April 2018, however, employers with 250 or more employees will have to publish their gender pay gap statistics and be named and shamed for paying female staff less than men.
So how can finance professionals help employers up their game and make sure they are fully prepared?
Be the first to ‘bite the bullet’
A recent survey of 288 employers by XpertHR found that many businesses are taking a ‘wait and see’ approach when it comes to publishing their stats. The report found that more than one in four (26.5%) mid-sized companies (those with 250-999 employees) and more than half (51.5%) of larger companies (with 1,000 plus employees) have already calculated their pay gaps but without yet making them public. But with less than three months to go, time is of the essence. So, what are you waiting for?
Deal with things head on
Eva Meszaros, financial director of Marriott and Kelly Accountancy, says its essential that employers don’t try and hide their head in the sand. “Employers shouldn’t try and conceal their figures or hide from the issue,” she notes. “Instead, they need to use it as a springboard to make positive changes and invest in strong female talent. Even if their pay reports are negative, at least they can work towards something better.”
The first step, says Meszaros, is to accept that there is a pay gap, and look to invest more money into the business to create better wages. “They can also offer better incentives, and reward schemes that reward men and women equally for their work, to create a more level playing field.”
Get HR on board
Meszaros says it’s up to finance professionals to take the main auditing role and accurately identify, and justify any pay differences between the sexes. However, they can’t do it all on their own. “Accountants will also need to work closely with HR to set out an employers’ plan to help bridge the gap and avoid any breaches,” she notes. “It will be the finance professionals’ responsibility to ensure that this information is correct and ensure it is published accurately on the company website.”
Lead by example
Accountancy Age’s survey of 100 accountancy firms in 2017 revealed that the vast majority (87%) of senior-level roles in finance firms were filled by men and that 19% had no female partners at all.
Alison Hennell, associate professor in accounting and financial management at Henley Business School, says, however, that many accountancy firms, especially the so-called ‘big four’ are trying to lead by example when it comes to addressing the gender pay gap.
“PwC has set out diversity targets to have at least 30% female representation in their new partner intake, to be measured every three years,” she notes. “EY has launched Careerwatch which provides mentoring and sponsorship to high potential female talent. And Deloitte has introduced a programme to develop and retain high potential female managers.”
Hennell says many accountancy firms, such as PwC, offer gender pay reporting and analysis tools but that they have to ensure they communicate their findings to help try and mitigate the reputational risks. “Finance professionals should raise the issue with their employers via the appropriate channels – staff surveys, staff meetings and personal development reviews etc.” she says. “If employers are aware that their staff are interested in this issue, they are more likely to react.”
Set equality targets
Hennell says creating an inclusive culture is vital. “All organisations need a diversity policy but companies also need to think about their wider diversity and inclusion agenda – from return to work benefits, networks, mentoring and talent programmes,” she notes. They should, says Hennell, set trackable goals when it comes to recruitment policies, starting salaries, progression policies and supporting work/life balance.
“It is also important to create more flexible job designs and working conditions, so that all staff can successfully combine work with family commitments,” she adds.
Think about the bottom line
Mike Smith, managing director at Business Expert consultancy, says that employers should realise that inclusivity and diversity enhances business performance. “A recent report by McKinsey found that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity were 15% more likely to do better than their local peers,” he notes.
“At the other end of the spectrum, less diverse companies were less likely to perform well.”
Georgina Fuller is an award winning freelance journalist and editor.