Are we losing interest in gender pay reporting?

This week saw the last deadline for gender pay reporting , but are we losing interest in the results?

Demonstrating the gender pay gap with men on the higher ledge than women

 

The deadline for gender pay gap reporting for employers with over 250 workers was yesterday [it’s slightly earlier for public sector organisations]. Cue the search for particular well-known companies that have gone up or down. This week Goldman Sachs has come under the spotlight, for instance. But will there be fewer stories this year than last and are we losing interest in gender pay gap reporting, even though in this post-Covid period with the push to return to the office it is all the more crucial to monitor? If this is the case, it may be partly due to the way employers are reporting itself. Last year there were noticeably fewer action plans and those that there were tended to the superficial and perfunctory. This is interesting in itself given advances in data technology which surely mean that employers can drill down and pull out much more interesting information at every level.

Campaigners have long called for action plans to be made mandatory – it’s not enough to report your statistics, they argue. You must explain and analyse them and tell people what you are doing about them. But attitudes to gender pay reporting have changed. It was always a reputational issue, but now it seems to be much more about managing the figures – publishing as late as possible to avoid standing out, for instance, and not giving too much information away. The Government’s attitude during Covid didn’t help – it paused reporting in the early stages, giving the signal, said some, that it didn’t see reporting as essential.

The TUC has criticised the slow rate of progress and said: “It’s clear that just requiring companies to publish their gender pay gaps isn’t working. Companies must now be required to implement action plans to close their pay gaps. And bosses who don’t comply with the law should be fined.”

The falling interest in gender pay reporting seems linked to the general backsliding and backlash on all things diversity and inclusion. We recently held a roundtable on the subject and there was a general sense that the spotlight has moved away from women, even though the problems women face at work are still very much happening now.

The problem is that just fixating on the figures rather than on the underlying issues doesn’t solve anything. We know for instance, that gender pay gap figures can swing if just one senior woman leaves and that things like flexible working, which have enabled many women to work and to progress their careers, can be transformed if a new CEO comes in. We should not accept this fragility; progress should not be dependent on a handful of individuals. We need to make sure that any advances are lasting and that means making fundamental changes to the model of working we currently adhere to which no longer works for many people, and perhaps never did.



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