Explore the gender pay gaps at East Anglia’s biggest businesses
- Credit: Copyright: Archant 2018
The gender pay gap figures are in – and some of them aren't pretty. The main finding is the gender inequality which persists at senior and board level. Bethany Whymark reports.
Never before has the difference between what men and women are paid been in sharper focus.
And today must signal the start of the journey towards gender parity at the top of East Anglia's biggest businesses.
This is the message on deadline day for the gender pay gap reporting regulations, with more than 10 of the region's largest employers yet publish their gender pay and bonus gap figures.
Not to be confused with equal pay, which has been enforced by law since 1970, gender pay gaps show the difference between the total hourly pay of men and women in an organisation.
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Jeanette Wheeler, partner and employment lawyer at Birketts, says employers will need a 'period of introspection' to assess the reasons for their gender pay gaps – while the necessity for them to report annually will help keep the pressure on.
'Gender pay is shining a spotlight on where women are in the workforce – are they are being given the same opportunities, is there a problem with them reaching the higher status, higher paid jobs,' she said.
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'I think it is an extremely important objective. It has forced many employers to do the maths they had not hitherto done.
'It is very easy to ignore an issue when it is not reported and now boards are being given figures that do no make for easy reading, bearing in mind they will have to be published publicly. You are going to have to hold the mirror up and everyone is going to be looking at you.'
Ms Wheeler said that while there are some jobs and sectors which naturally attract more male or female candidates, it would be disappointing if employers used this as an excuse to not react to the numbers.
The 'mummy track'
Creating equal opportunities for part-time and flexible workers – particularly mothers – through initiatives like home working and job shares would be key in redressing the balance, she said.
The Office for National Statistics, which has been studying pay since 1997, has attributed the exponential rise in the gender pay gap for over 40s to women taking career breaks for childcare.
'There is no doubt in my mind that there is a childcare penalty for women to get their careers back on track,' said Ms Wheeler.
'The challenges are enormous and employers are not generally sympathetic to it.'
The beginnings of change
Executive coach and entrepreneur Caroline Williams said younger women were showing the 'confidence' to aim for more senior roles. 'Change does take time but I believe there is evidence that a more balanced picture with many more women in senior roles is emerging.'
She added: 'Flexible working is still not as widely available as it needs to be, together with pay structures which do not disadvantage part time workers – women or men. The more successful businesses are already embracing these changes and showing the results directly on their bottom line.'
Alison Wilde is a director of business mentoring firm Birdsoup, which is helping to deliver the We Can mentoring scheme for young businesswomen in Norfolk.
She said: 'Gender pay gap reporting is a good move as it has raised awareness and made people more conscious of the issue – that is the first step. Now I think there will be policies and programme put in place [within businesses].
'The hardest part will be changing the way people think and approach things.
'It has been proved that the organisations which are embracing these things are not having so many problems and their gender pay gaps are smaller.'
So how did our region do?
Almost all of the East Anglian companies required to report revealed a pay gap favouring men, with construction group Breheny, audio visual firm Midwich and insurance giant Aviva revealing some of the biggest gaps.
But there were exceptions. At Norwich-based media group Archant, which had a median pay gap of 6.4%, women earned 8.5% more than men in bonuses, and at sports vehicle manufacturer Ransomes Jacobsen in Ipswich the median pay gap put women's pay 7% higher than men's.
• You can explore data on the gender pay gaps of East Anglia's biggest companies at www.edp24.co.uk/business and www.eadt.co.uk/business
How does gender pay gap reporting work?
All UK public and private sector organisations with more than 249 employees have to reveal the difference between hourly pay for men and women.
They are required to publish the mean and median gap between the pay and bonuses of men and women, what percentage of men and women receive bonuses, and how many men and women there are in each quartile of their pay scale.
The median – the figure that falls in the middle when everyone's wages are lined up from smallest to largest – is considered to be a more representative figure as the mean can be skewed by a small number of highly paid employees. The figures in this report were gathered from company gender pay gap reports, or the government's gender pay gap reporting service where company reports were not available.
Employers who fail to comply could face court action and an 'unlimited' fine.
The smallest gaps
Smaller pay gaps in East Anglia have proved not to be sector-specific.
Among the companies with a median gap of under 10% are Kettle Foods (5.2%), motor sales group Desira (6.7%), Kinnerton Confectionery in Fakenham (6.7%), Thetford's Baxter Healthcare (0.7%) and telecoms giant BT (5.2%).
The East of England Co-op had a low median (1.1%) but a higher mean gap of 20.2%, which it said was down to 'gender imbalance' in its highest-paying roles.
Garden centre group Notcutts also had a higher mean of 18.5% (its median was 0.1%).
It said since the figures were taken both its board and
executive team had achieved female representation of 40%.
Groundscare equipment manufacturer Ransomes Jacobsen in Ipswich had a median gap of -7%, meaning women's average pay was higher than men's.
Jack Sealy, which supplies air and power tools, also had a negative gap – its mean average showed women were paid 2% more, though its median favoured men by 3.9%.
The largest gaps
The region's businesses with the highest gender pay gaps followed national trends, with finance and particular retail sectors performing badly.
Audio-visual specialists Midwich in Diss, which had a median gap of 28.6%, said its industry was 'historically renowned for having a higher male presence', with 60% of its workforce being male and more men holding senior positions. It said it would 'work hard to redress any imbalances'.
Breheny Group, a civil engineering contractor founded by a woman, said its 47.3% median pay gap was 'not significantly different' to the majority of its peers, but said the data 'shows we need to do more to create opportunities for women to progress'.
Medical equipment manufacturer Bespak Europe had a median pay gap of 30.1%. In its gender pay gap report, parent company Consort Medical said it would continue to focus on ensuring there were equal opportunities for women with 'no glass ceiling'.
Analysis: Bethany Whymark
Gender pay gaps have little to do with unequal pay, but quite a lot to do with unequal representation.
Take the example of Ryanair, revealed yesterday as having the airline industry's largest pay gap at 67%.
Of the carrier's 554 pilots, more than 540 are men; meanwhile its lower paid cabin crew are predominantly female. Having more men in higher-paid roles has affected its pay gap, resulting in the undesirable final figures.
In some cases, employers have attributed the uneven representation of men and women in their workforces to particular industries and roles being more attractive to a particular gender – but in others, unequal opportunity may be at the heart.
While flexible and part time workers – especially mothers – are sidelined in favour of full-time colleagues for promotion or new career opportunities, we will not achieve parity in senior roles or pay. It's time for businesses to step up and help everyone on their pay roll to be counted.