The Gender Pay Gap – Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics? by Liz Watt

So goes the famous quote attributed to Benjamin Disraeli in the 1800’s, but the same quote could equally be applied to the present day and the gender pay gap statistics published recently.

There has been a tidal wave of comment on the statistics that all employers with over 250 employees have been compelled to disclose on their gender pay gap figures, and the data produced has veered between enlightening to quite frankly shocking.  The Sunday Times published a very good summary of the data and comment on the 8th April and of course there have been myriad articles and discussions in all the broadcast media.

I highlight the Times article though, as part of their wide ranging piece focuses on whether Footsie 100 firms ‘Talk the Talk’ – ie , does their declared gender pay gap reflect what they say about their female staff?  I think a comparison of the statistics and published comments on company websites provides a fascinating insight into the quite often yawning gap between what businesses say about their Diversity and Inclusion policies and what they actually do. Hence the slightly tongue in cheek question in the title of this piece.

I have recently witnessed the discrepancy between words and actions first hand when preparing to establish a women’s networking group. The group is for senior women working in the Indirect Tax profession and members are drawn from the accountancy profession and businesses of all size.   In the focus groups held in advance, I showed all the potential members what their company websites said about women in the workplace and asked them to talk about their own personal experiences of the reality they experienced on a day to day basis.

Needless to say, in a high proportion of cases, the reality was very different from the actual day to day experience and provided real food for thought for the delegates. It gave them the opportunity to reflect on what their businesses say they do in regard to promoting gender balance issues and how they themselves could influence the behaviours of their colleagues and the business as a whole.

Of course, the very fact that these businesses are prepared to support and sponsor their female talent through membership of a networking group says much about their ambition to bridge the gap. These businesses are actively demonstrating their willingness to promote women’s interests in the workplace and are showing their commitment to use whatever means available to them to bridge the gap.

In the same way, the gender pay gap data shines a light on what companies say they do and what they actually do. The light having been shone, the challenge now is for businesses to respond in a positive way and close the gap that these various positive initiatives highlight. The aim should surely be to dispense with the ‘damned lies and statistics’ and embrace a more honest and open culture.

If you would like to find out more about what is involved in setting up a Women’s Networking Group for your sector or business, please contact Liz Watt :

And if you are interested in finding out more about the Indirect Tax Women’s Network, either for yourself or for one of your team members, please contact Liz on the above email address, or on 020 7419 6416


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