Gender equality in the workplace remains a work in progress for UK businesses, with the UK found to have one of the biggest gender pay gaps in Europe. Unfortunately, the PR and communications industry is no stranger to this status quo. Despite women accounting for 66% of employees, the gender pay gap in this sector rose to 21% last year.
Size doesn’t matter
Whilst the introduction of gender pay gap reporting has been a step in the right direction, it is clear that there are still significant strides to be made. Currently, the reporting regime only affects companies with 250 or more employees, but growing awareness of the gender pay gap and calls for greater transparency around earnings means it will become a key issue for all agencies going forward, regardless of size.
To thrive, businesses have to be able to attract and retain talent, and this means creating a workplace that actively promotes diversity and equality. Gender pay disparity not only poses a risk to a company’s performance, but also its employer brand and ability to recruit new talent.
Female employees may feel undervalued and unappreciated if their achievements are not rewarded in the same way as male colleagues. Companies that fail to address this stand to lose industry knowledge, experience and valuable skills if employees move elsewhere and in the worst case scenario, it could result in sex-discrimination claims.
Being supportive and proactive in closing the gap shows the company cares about doing the right thing. Equally, being seen to treat employees fairly can also have a positive impact on e employer brand. By contrast, if an agency is found to have a large gender pay gap, it could discourage female candidates from applying for roles and affect its reputation among potential clients.
Do salary checks
Using industry salary benchmark data and recruiter data can be a great starting point for companies, enabling them to see where they sit in terms of competitive pay. Business leaders should also carry out regular salary benchmarking exercises to ensure all employees are paid according to the salary bands for their role. But it’s not enough to simply collate data; to drive meaningful change, businesses must analyse the findings to identify the reasons behind their gender pay gap, as well as the actions needed to address gaps.
It can be useful to inform employees why the business is looking into pay, what changes may take place, as well as share findings in terms of percentages. Being honest and transparent will lead to more open conversation and culture, creating an environment where female employees also feel more confident about asking for a pay rise. If women are found to be paid less than men in the same position, this can be easily rectified by increasing female salaries to match.
Hire more senior women
Senior roles are often more complex than junior roles, with men historically more likely hold senior positions. To address this, companies should adopt a long-term strategy to hire more senior females or promote internally.
Understand the whole picture
However, a gender pay gap is not always clear cut; various factors can affect salary from length of service to experience and specialism. The key is to understand the reasons behind the figures and be able to justify differences in salary.
Ultimately, addressing the gender pay gap should not be a box-ticking exercise; businesses should view it as an opportunity to do the right thing by building an inclusive workplace that benefits everyone.
Written by Danielle Meola, head of HR at consultancy JourneyHR
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