Vital Statistics and Why Measurements Matter to Women

Vital statistics and why measurements matter to women

Dr Lesley Sawers is Executive Chair of GenAnalytics Ltd, a specialist data analytics and market insights consultancy focused on business performance improvement linked to diversity and equalities in the workplace   www.genanalytics.co.uk

This Autumn a whole new interpretation will be given to the term “vital statistics” and what it means for women across the UK.

Pay gap and bonus gap reporting will become mandatory for all businesses employing over 250 people, that equates to around 8,000 companies across the UK. Within Scotland, this information has been available within the public sector, but now working women employed in larger companies will soon be able to see pay rates, differences in earnings and bonus payments between colleagues and what other companies in their sector pay. Many women have already told me they “can’t wait”.

At a national level, the differences in male and female earnings is well documented. We already know that for every one 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 gender workplace information across many sectors and organisations.

My long held 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 faded. Given the pace of change or inertia across many areas such as career progression, flexible working, access to affordable childcare, skills and training etc it is clear that we cannot wait for “things” to get better and for societal attitudes to change of their own accord. Evidence shows that societal attitudes and behaviours can take up to 20 years to shift, at least one generation or sometimes longer.

This is borne out in a recent study by Kramer and Harris, both prominent lawyers, which featured in the Harvard Business Review. Their work highlights that millennial men (i.e those aged between 16 and 36 years old) are just as “sexist” (their words) as their fathers. 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 a 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. The Harvard Business Review study also suggests that if something wasn’t done soon to change millennial male attitudes this could have serious consequences for the advancement of women to C Suite 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 to assess progress and the impact not just of Government policy but also of company actions. The development of a Gender Workplace Plan for Scotland, involving business, government, third sector and key stakeholder groups would ensure we combined our resources, expertise and energy against an agreed set of goals and measures. And importantly that we could track progress.

We still have some way to go in agreeing this national set of gender performance measures that we can all sign up to, and over one year on there is no Gender Workplace Plan. Importantly, we still lack a set of uniform equalities measures across the public and private sectors. But the move towards mandatory pay gap reporting will at least ensure transparency of data in this area and that cross sector, cross company comparison on pay and bonus differentials can be made. Once published the intention 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.

* “The Role and Contribution of Women to the Scottish Economy” can be found by clicking here

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