The case for monitoring gender pay equality spoke to Kublir Shergill of Genesis Housing Association about their decision to publish their gender pay statistics.

Genesis Housing Association is one of just four organisations in the UK which publishes information about its gender pay gap and one of only two which includes different pay grades.

The organisation believes its lead will encourage others to monitor pay equality, even if they don’t publish their statistics. “If they are serious about gender equality they do need to monitor this,” says Kulbir Shergill, Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Genesis. She adds that many organisations are still in the early stages of implementing monitoring and may be loath to publish statistics which are not altogether positive. “That is understandable,” she says. “What is important is what they are doing with the data. Whether they are transparent is a secondary issue. What matters is that we are emphasising the benefits of gender parity, what it can do for organisations’ reputation and the morale of people who work there.”

Pay transparency was one of the cornerstones of the Government’s Think, Act, Report which was launched around three years ago as a means of encouraging organisations to improve their pay transparency voluntarily. The Liberal Democrats’ leader Nick Clegg recently pledged that a future government involving his party would make publication of pay data compulsory.  Labour says this is a desperate attempt to cover up what it calls the failure of Think, Act, Report.

Kulbir says she is not sure making publication of gender pay data compulsory would “make people do the right thing”, but believes the messages around the case for gender pay equality need to be stronger and that organisations need more support to work towards it. However, she admits some may just be opposed to equality and that naming and shaming these might at least put women off applying to them.

Genesis’ policy on gender parity is linked to its wider work on diversity. It did its initial pay audit in 2010 after it launched its new diversity strategy. Kulbir says: “Getting women into senior management positions was important. There was a disparity between the number of women in senior management positions and the number of women elsewhere in the organisation. One of the issues we wanted to look at was whether pay was an issue. We were pleasantly surprised by the results which showed that while there was some difference in pay it was quite small compared to other organisations.”

She says this is partly due to the sector Genesis is in which attracts more women, for instance, in frontline care and support roles.  However, when it started its work on diversity in 2009 just 18% of its senior management team were women, although it has a 60% female workforce. It now stands at 35% and is 40% for manager level. The picture at the very top is better, with 60% of non executives being female and the executive board being around 50/50 male:female. “There’s been a big change. When I started there was just one female non executive director,” says Kulbir. Genesis made a concerted effort, particularly for non executives to get more women on their shortlists.

Building the pipeline

She admits there is still work to do on building up the pipeline to board level, but Genesis has been a lot of work on issues which affect diversity and women's career progression including flexible working, mentoring, support for maternity returners [it now has an almost 100% return rate, up from 68% in 2009/10] and a lively women’s network which holds sessions on practical career issues such as managing your brand and senior managers talking about how they have made it up the career ladder. “People are inspired by hearing how other women have faced barriers and overcome them. Role modelling is very important,” says Kulbir.

Since 2010, Genesis has continued to publish and monitor its statistics and HR staff are looking at them in more detail in different parts of the business. “We want to pinpoint issues we might need to be aware of and look for trends and to make that information available for people who want to work for us,” says Kulbir.

In the last couple of years Genesis has undergone a big reorganisation and restructuring process, which Kulbir says, has resulted in a less hierarchical structure, making evaluation easier, and promoting more agile working for those roles which can accommodate it, including senior management ones. She adds that it is important to be constantly vigilant on gender pay equality. “These things don’t stand still,” she says, “and people coming and going can make a big difference.”

Genesis will soon review its diversity strategy and is looking in particular at how it supports people to manager their careers. “It’s important to remember that women are not a homogenous group,” says Kulbir. “They may be from different ethnic groups or be disabled. It’s about how we support talent across the organisation and bring the different diversity strands together.”

When asked whether the case for gender equality needs to be a business one or an ethical one or a mixture of both, she says: “We know the business case makes sense and from an ethical point of view why would you not want to treat your employees fairly? The question is do you want to treat people fairly or not.”

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