Why we need to think about the gender pay gap
Sinéad Butters MBE is the Group Chief Executive of Aspire Housing in North Staffordshire.
There has been a good deal of interest since the recent gender pay gap reporting hit the headlines, in particular around the BBC and the gap between female and male presenters and celebrities.
I have always been keen not to push the gender issue too hard — acknowledging everyone is a valuable person in their own right and should be treated equally, whatever their gender, creed, colour or religion.
But Aspire’s own gender pay gap reporting has made me think.
I know we have more men than women at senior levels, despite a female CEO and Chair. I know our Heads of Service and our middle managers are mostly men. And this is something I have been striving to re-balance through recruitment.
Recently we were looking to recruit a new Head of IT, and while we decided against appointing in the end, within the last five candidates there wasn’t a single female. This is not new to us. It’s not a recent phenomenon.
I meet annually with every person within Aspire that manages someone.
What strikes me about these private conversations is the genuine passion, capability and expertise that our people display every day. But what strikes me more in the light of the gender pay gap, is the fact that more often than not, there is a crippling lack of confidence, particularly amongst young women who are great at what they do, and have potential to do even more, but just don’t think they’re good enough.
I know what that feels like. Of course I do.
In fact, we all must have felt like that at some point in our lives. But why is it that sometimes women can listen too carefully to that negative voice saying they can’t do it or are not good enough?
I try not to listen to mine too much. Sometimes it gets the better of me, but most the time I move forward fast enough so it can’t keep up!
Our pay gap — while not embarrassing in its size, is still unacceptable.
And, while I’m ploughing on thinking the best will rise to the top, maybe I should slow down a bit; realise that maybe it’s up to me to take some time to help those who lack confidence to believe in themselves and see more women pushing for those top jobs in Aspire. That would be a good start.
So, I don’t feel unfair when I am supporting women to achieve their potential. Not now, when I could argue that there might be hidden unintended sexism even here in Aspire.
How could that be? I ask myself. Just having the CEO and Chair as women does not mean we have this cracked. We don’t. It’s up to us to take positive action — as women in privileged positions, we can ensure everybody gets a fair chance of their dream job. I got mine.
So, in the words of Andrew Marvell:
“Let us roll all our strength and all
Our sweetness up into one ball,
And tear our pleasures with rough strife
Through the iron gates of life:
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.”
We can start by being ambitious for everyone. And use our strength and our sweetness to great effect.