We need to talk about pay gaps

By Michelle Rudek, 28 September 2022

This week is National Inclusion Week; an event dedicated to celebrating inclusion and diversity and taking action to foster inclusive workspaces.

This event, as with all similar awareness events and initiatives (including Black History Month coming in October), provides ample opportunities for employers of all sizes to publicise their emphatic support for inclusion. Some employers go further and highlight the work that they do to foster and increase inclusion and diversity in the workplace and to their credit, these organisations do seem to be taking tangible action. However, many organisations are ignoring a rather fundamental element of inclusion, which is pay equality.

Cast your mind back to earlier this year, specifically 8th March which marks International Women’s Day. Social Media Managers across the world were diligent in their messaging for this day, celebrating the women in their respective organisations. On Twitter, many of these messages were quote-tweeted by Gender Pay Gap Bot (@PayGapApp is their Twitter handle) highlighting the percentage gender pay gap in their organisation.

As this continued throughout the day, it was staggering to see the sheer number of companies who were essentially being contradicted in their apparent support for gender parity. The panic to rectify the situation didn’t look good, either. Duncan Robertson, a senior academic at Loughborough University, commented: “It’s fascinating to see all the organizations posting about International Womens Day then realise that the Gender Pay Gap Bot posts their gender pay gap, and then deleting their tweet.” Fascinating, indeed.

As people on Twitter continually refreshed the feed and poked fun at the drama that ensued, what the Gender Pay Gap Bot achieved so effectively was to highlight that real work needs to be done to address the bare minimum requirement of equality in the workplace.

Of course, pay gaps exist beyond the parameters of gender, too.

This week also saw the results from a Glassdoor study that found that two out of five Black employees were affected by ethnicity pay gaps in their organisations. What’s also concerning is one in two of the Black employees surveyed say the gap has widened in the last two years.

With the resurgence of Black Lives Matter movements worldwide after George Floyd’s death in summer 2020, and the subsequent calls for a focus on anti-racism and more inclusive and psychologically safe work environments for people of colour, these statistics make for disheartening reading.

Additionally, recent reports of disability pay gaps, where disabled employees earn an average of £2 less per hours than their non-disabled colleagues, and LGBTQ+ pay being on average 16% less than their heterosexual, cisgender counterparts, only serve to add more evidence to the link between privilege and pay.

So, where do employers start when tackling pay gaps?

Firstly, data gathering is vital. Study your workforce demographics, the roles and salaries and scrutinise them with transparency and honesty. The data that comes back may make for uncomfortable reading but least you have a starting point to improve upon.

But the most important thing to do next is to be proactive and make those improvements where necessary. Which brings us back, quite neatly, to National Inclusion Week and its theme for 2022, which is ‘Time to Act: The Power of Now’.

Further Reading & Insights

Still rigged: racism in the UK labour market, by the TUC

The big LGBTQ+ wage gap problem, by the BBC

Gender Pay Gap Bot on Twitter

Follow Michelle Gyimah, pay gap expert on LinkedIn for further insights