Vital Stats Pic

Why Female Vital Statistics Matter

This Autumn a whole new meaning will be given to the term “vital statistics”.

Why? Because, pay and bonus gap reporting will become mandatory for over 8,000 businesses across the UK. From October, women employed in larger companies will be able to see pay rates, differences in earnings and bonus payments in their own organisations and in other companies.

At a national level, the differences in male and female earnings is well documented. We already know that for everyone pound a man earns, a woman earns 85 pence. Or put another way, on average a woman works for free for two months of the year compared to a man. Within Scotland, the gender pay gap averages 17% but can be as high as 40% in the legal and professional services sector and 23% in the construction industry. Soon we will be able to see exactly where and in which companies these differences arise.

Whilst the introduction of national pay gap measures is a welcome development, we still have some way to go to ensure full transparency on workplace information on diversity across many sectors and organisations. Given the slow pace of change in many areas such as flexible working, affordable childcare, skills and training, and boardroom appointments it is clear that women cannot wait for “things” to get better and for societal attitudes to change of their own accord. My own personal belief that we could achieve workplace equality through the natural progression of younger generations and without the need for Government policy or legislative intervention has long faded.

In fact, evidence shows that societal attitudes and behaviours can take up to 20 years to shift, at least one generation or sometimes longer. A recent study by Kramer and Harris showed that millennial men (i.e. those aged between 16 and 36 years old) are just as “sexist” (their words) as their fathers’ generation. Many of the male participants in this study believed their careers should take precedence over their partners, and two thirds held the view that their wives or partners should deal with childcare. Another US based study, conducted by Pew Research, also worryingly highlighted that the majority of young males interviewed believed that gender equality had been achieved in the workplace and there was no need for further policy changes at a national level. Both studies suggest that if something isn’t done soon to change millennial male attitudes this could have serious consequences for the advancement of women to senior positions in the future.

My own Review* conducted on behalf of the UK Government Scotland Office and published last year, identified the need for more measures on gender equality as one of its Key Recommendations. It also called for the development of a national framework or plan to assess progress and the impact not just of Government policy but also of company actions. The development of a “National Gender Workplace Plan” for Scotland, involving business, government, third sector, public sector and key stakeholder groups would ensure we combined our resources, expertise and energy against an agreed set of goals and measures. This would help increase the pace of change and the overcoming of inertia in key areas. Importantly, it would also identify the KPI’s or business performance measures that would deliver greatest value to the economy, to women and their families and to society.

We still have some way to go in agreeing a national set of gender performance measures that we can all sign up to, and over one year on there is no “Gender Workplace Plan” or collective strategy that businesses and organisations can work together to deliver. And we still lack a set of uniform equalities measures across the public and private sectors that link to economic and business performance. On the upside, the move towards mandatory pay gap reporting will at least ensure transparency of pay data. Once published the hope is that pressure from employees, customers, shareholders, stakeholders and from women themselves will force companies to take action. As Drucker famously said, “What gets measured, gets done” pay gap reporting is one set of vital statistics that soon we can all share.

Dr Lesley Sawers

Executive Chair

GenAnalytics Ltd

*“The Role and Contribution of Women to the Scottish Economy”

(version of this article first published in BWS Magazine July/August 2016)

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