Gender gap widens - is this last hurdle too much for society?

With headlines showing that the gender pay gap in London has widened from 10.9% to 13.2%, Kathryn Nawrockyi, Director Opportunity Now has concerns that the last hurdle is proving the most difficult with it's links to societal assumptions.

The gender gap has closed significantly in recent years but this last hurdle is proving the most difficult.

We know the factors contributing to a gender pay gap, and we know what changes businesses can make. Yet it's only when we can change societal assumptions that the real change will happen.  Norms that see women congregated in lower paid roles (catering, cashiering, cleaning, clerical, and caring) and into roles that are historically undervalued by business, stigmatised by agile working, or facing a pay penalty for maternity leave.

Conducting an equal pay audit is the first step to knowing if there is a gap and, if so, where it is - by job level, by department, by role. Only then can action be taken to tackle it, be that internally through removing subjectivity and secrecy in pay reward structures and decisions, or externally to encourage young girls to enter traditionally male-dominated roles.

An organisation that publishes its gap and the action plan around it is saying 'we're committed and trying'. The question is, will the public backlash be so great that their peers lock down - and we'll be forced to make it mandatory.  Then we face dragging senior leaders into the new world rather than them taking the lead on genuine organisational change from the front.

You can read more of Kathryn's views on the gender pay gap and what organisations can do to address it in her interviews with Grazia (25 July 2014) and HR Magazine (28 July 2014).

Opportunity Now also has a range of best practice recommendations on equal pay and we would encourage all employers to read these and assess how they can apply them within their own organisations.