Almost a year on since the introduction of businesses having to report their gender pay gap, the difference in wages between the sexes is wider ever with four out of ten companies stating that the gap has actually increased. As it currently stands, around 10% of UK employers have reported their gender pay figures ahead of the 4th April deadline for the private sector. Of those companies, 74% report a pay gap which favours men. When the UK announced the introduction of Pay Policies for all firms with over 250 employees, this was undeniably a positive step in the right direction. This policy not only highlighted the injustice that women professionals face within the workplace, but also the lack of reasoning as to why women and men should be paid differently. However, within the UK alone, the gender pay gap is set to be closed in approximately 55 years; an abysmal reality that perfectly describes the UK's professional arena's ability to invoke social change. Why, with so much focus and requirement for businesses to improve their gender equality, are we almost a year on and seeing the gender pay gap widen?

It is undeniable that the UK has spent the last year praising its efforts to improve gender equality within every institution, however it is problematic to state that businesses are positive about their ability to close this void when no substantial driving force for change has been implemented. There is so much discussion around equality for women within the world of work, but we are clearly yet to see notable change that is both sustainable and replicable by smaller entities. This is especially prominent within the financial arena where the issue lies not only within gender pay, but in the disproportionate number of men sitting at management and board levels. Despite regular claims that gender diversity within the financial landscape in particular is fast on the rise, The Financial Times' latest research reveals that this is not the case. Men still outnumber women 3:1 within the sector and women still only hold 27.2% of the most senior jobs, a mere 0.4% increase from the previous year. With this trivial improvement, why is it that finance executives are claiming that this year marks a change in position towards gender equality?

In light of this and subsequent reports that the gender pay gap has widened, critical action is required imminently at both an industry and policy level to begin to increase diversity within the workplace. Policies speak louder than words, they show that a business is truly dedicated to improving equality rather than just passively stating they are. To nurture diversity and promote equality, businesses need to do more than prevent discrimination by appealing to staff from a range of backgrounds. Helpful measures include flexible working hours and parental leave, or the provision of pastoral care, mentoring and coaching, and data on pay gaps. Unfortunately, there is no simple formula but this does not allow businesses to state issues of equality are too complex to tackle.

An example of why we need more effective policy-making can be seen within the EU's equal pay day 2018, which showed that female workers in the European Union are earning on average 16% less than their male counterparts, effectively losing two months' pay per year. This is rarely created by a proactive approach to discriminate and is usually the function of policies created by middle-class men for middle-class men. These policies accidentally bake-in friction to the process of being an intelligent rising woman or minority in the workforce. 

Luckily, gender equality issues within businesses can be at least partially addressed with some fairly straightforward best practice policies. This then allows the excellent work to hire great people from diverse backgrounds, to lead to retaining great people from diverse backgrounds, and therefore realise some of the benefits that the many research papers into diversity have shown. 

For more information click here - The Equality Group