The UK’s FTSE 100 companies have hit their target of getting 25% of board positions filled by women as the Government announces measures aimed at closing the gender pay gap.
The Government welcomed the reaching of the 25% target, although figures suggest much of the increase in women on boards is due to non-executive appointments rather than women coming up through the business ranks and campaigners warn there is much more to do.
It also announced that businesses with more than 250 employees will have to publish the difference between the average pay of their male and female employees as well as a consultation which will look at the detail of how the new gender pay gap regulations will be designed. That includes what, where and when information will be published. It is seeking views on what more can be done to encourage girls to consider the widest range of careers, support parents returning to work and help women of all ages reach their full potential and have the security of a well-paid job. The gender pay audits are expected to come into effect in 2016.
The coalition legislated in the last Parliament for gender pay audits with the measures to be introduced within a year. The Liberal Democrats pushed the policy, despite opposition from the Conservatives at the time, but the Tories went on to include it in their election manifesto.
Writing in the Times today, the Prime Minister said: “Today I’m announcing a really big move: we will make every single company with 250 employees or more publish the gap between average female earnings and average male earnings. That will cast sunlight on the discrepancies and create the pressure we need for change, driving women’s wages up.”
He added that the announcement last week of an increase in the national minimum wage would primarily help women as they tend to be in lower paid jobs.
He said: “This government is providing a wide programme of support for women in the workplace, introducing 30 hours of free childcare, 20.6 million employees now able to benefit from flexible working, and the new careers service putting businesses in the lead and showing schoolgirls that no profession is off limits.”
Katja Hall, CBI Deputy Director-General, welcomed the news about the 25% target being reached and said it showed that a voluntary approach worked. She warned: “We must not let our guard drop. Progress has relied on making sure new appointments are diverse, and this must continue as women appointed since the Davies report begin to end their terms on boards and replacements are sought.”
Hall welcomed moves on tackling the gender pay gap, but preferred a voluntary approach. She said: “Addressing the gender pay gap is the right priority – and we should set a target for reducing it. While we believe publishing pay gap data could be misleading, we will work with the Government to ensure that rules on what is published are flexible enough to be relevant to each company.
“To see real progress, however, we need to challenge occupational stereotypes by encouraging more women into male dominated industries and investing in careers advice.”
Joe Wiggins, Career Trends Analyst at jobs and career marketplace Glassdoor, welcomed the move on gender pay audits. He said: “Our research has shown that just 35% of employees know what their colleagues earn so this is clearly a wider issue than just the gender pay divide – it impacts all employees. For (60%) of employees this will be music to their ears as they claimed in our research that companies should be forced to be more transparent.
“Eliminating the gender pay divide is just the tip of the iceberg, we’d really like to see the Government look at salary transparency in its entirety as it impacts every employee. Our business has been built on transparency, offering information for both new and existing employees across the globe. This is the future for employees as working with limited information becomes a thing of the past. We hope this cloak and dagger approach to recruitment will be finally eliminated.”