5 interesting things we noticed about the UK gender pay gap data

Andrew Babbage
May 10, 2018 · 6 min read

Or, how I went on a data bender and woke up 24 hours later with biro on my face with 3 empty packets of pickled onion Monster Munch…

We’ve been as happy as pigs in mud at Applied for the last few weeks. Gender Pay Gap reporting in the UK has given us a rich seam of data to wade through and dive into, much like Scrooge McDuck diving into his fortune of gold coins at the start of Ducktails.

Like Scrooge McDuck… but with data. Yeah.

We’re not only happy because we’re data obsessed nerds, but also because the reporting shines a much needed light on a complex and serious issue and has already started to spur companies into action. (The UK government introduced compulsory reporting of the gender pay gap for organisations with 250 or more employees, with the deadline in April 2018. The ONS reports that the national median pay gap is currently 18.4% (i.e. on average, men earn 18.4% more than women).

The press has done a great job of helping us to visualise what this data means, with the Guardian’s excellent topographical visualisation and interactive calendar, the BBC’s bar charts and, not to be outdone, the Financial Times’ informative crissy-crossy lines.

Why do we care so much? Firstly, everybody should care as it is a sign of deep rooted and systemic inequality of opportunity. Secondly, we’re also big fans of the Crown so were frankly ticked off to hear that Matt had been paid so much more than Claire. Thirdly, de-biased recruitment is one of the few practical and tangible things that companies can do to address the gap (which is what we get out of bed to do every day).

So we’ve been doing our own analysis on the data and we’ve found a few quirky and hopefully interesting things that will tickle your attention for a few seconds:

1. About 40% of companies have assigned the CEO/Director as the responsible person for fixing their gap, 26% Head of HR and 34% other roles

Companies can assign a responsible person when they report, and 84% of companies did choose to do this. By looking at the roles of these people, you can see a break-down of which part of their organisations has been assigned to tackle the gap:

Responsible person, by job role for all reporting companies

The implication here could be that 40% are taking this seriously and have focus right at the top, 26% have eyes on it from Human Resources which, from auditing the reports, can often result in a much more tangible, practical remediation plan and 34% really have no clue and are just treating it as an administrative, low priority task. It will be interesting to see how these numbers change as the reporting evolves going forward and see who addresses the problem faster.

2. 146 companies have already reported their data for next year

About half of these 146 companies look like they have only just become required to report in this year (>250 employees), so don’t have any data from last year. For those that did report, you can start to see whether their gap has improved or deteriorated over time. Here are the best and worst so far:

GSF Sandylight, a commercial cleaning service provider reduced its gap from paying men 15% more than women on average, to 1.6% (13.4% improvement). Bravo!

Blackswan International, a care homes provider saw an increase in its mean pay gap from 7.5% to 19.4% (11.9% deterioration). Boo.

This type of comparison is going to be incredibly powerful once the reporting deadline approaches next year and I’d expect many companies to be scrambling for a last minute solution.

3. Companies predominantly made up of women tend to have a gender pay gap, as the top dogs seem to mainly be men

Companies which are overwhelmingly made up of women, particularly in the lower pay quartiles, have some of the highest mean gender pay gaps:

Boux Avenue, women’s lingerie: on average, paying men 75.4% more than women (75.6% median)

Coast Fashions, women’s clothing, 98.6% women: on average, paying men 71% more than women (40% median)

Sweaty Betty, women’s sportswear, 99% women: on average, paying men 62.4% more than women (68.1% median)

This is largely due to the small number of men in top positions skewing the results, however it does beg the question why are the highest paid people, in a company mostly made up of women, men? The good news, despite the skew, is that these companies seem to recognise the irony of their data and are looking to correct it:

“I am determined to continue to empower women through even more opportunities in the business” Tamara Hill-Norton, Founder & Creative Director, Sweaty Betty, Gender Pay Gap Report 2017

4. The stragglers who were late to report have started to, and there are some shockers in there

It was estimated that there was about 1,500 companies which had not reported by the deadline. At the time of writing, 437 of these companies had since reported within the 1 month grace period given. This subset of results looks to follow the trend of ~80% of companies paying men more than women. Some of the shockers are below:

The Fair Trade Practice, an ethical claims specialist: on average, paying men 50% more than women (55% median)

Clarins UK, beauty products, cosmetics, make-up: on average, paying men 48% more than women (39% median)

Marston Resources, Judicial services firm: on average, paying men 37% more than women (40% median)

I guess they should be given the benefit of the doubt as it is the first time that companies have had to report this data… but seriously?

5. 22 of the top 25 companies with the biggest mean pay gap are football clubs

On the face of it, it’s obvious where the gap comes from; the playing squad and their coaching staff are all male and are all on fat pay cheques (the mean pay gap for these 22 clubs ranges from 156% to 75.6%!). However, even when you look at the median pay gap which should deemphasise stratospheric player salaries and focus on the non-player support staff, well over half of the 22 clubs have median gaps of over 15%.

Reading through the Gender Pay Gap reports for these clubs, by in large they follow the same bland platitude ‘this is how our industry works, but we are committed to equality’. With some heartening exceptions; for example, West Ham have a mean gender pay gap of 87.4% which reduces to -9.8% (paying women 9.8% more than men) once the playing squad are removed and Southampton has one of the better reports I have read with a clear 9 point plan to address the gap. <insert football chant here>

“Within the football industry, the historical nature of the sport means that jobs are, arguably, traditionally more attractive to males. The Club challenges this stereotype through our equality policy and One March initiatives.” Gender Pay Gap Report, March 2018, Southampton FC

Okay enough, how do we fix it?

The Government Equalities Office and CIPD have released a very useful Actions for Employers brochure with the following steps:

  1. Calculate and publish your pay gap data (hopefully already done!)
  2. Analyse your data to find the area of greatest potential improvement (we recommend our friends at GapSquare to help you do this)
  3. Commit to an action plan (around 4 main areas: recruitment, flexible working, parental leave & returners and pay, reward & promotion)
  4. Monitor your progress (and make it a priority for your CEO)

Also here is an FT article by Harvard professor Iris Bohnet on how to address the gap. We could talk a lot more about this but perhaps we’ll save it for another time…

Stay tuned for another blog specifically on how recruitment can be used to address the gap. It’s our bread and butter, so look out!

Andy Babbage is head of Growth & Partnerships at Applied, a SaaS platform that increases hiring precision and reduces bias. He’s a reformed engineer, biz strategy lover and enthusiastic amateur on gender.

Finding Needles in Haystacks

The ongoing story of Applied, a team obsessed with using…

Thanks to Hew Ingram

Andrew Babbage

Written by

Reformed engineer, strategy lover, marketer. Removing bias from recruitment

Finding Needles in Haystacks

The ongoing story of Applied, a team obsessed with using science to make workplaces fairer and more efficient by removing hiring bias and replacing it with things more predictive of potential. (photo: Shibuya Crossing © Joshua Damasio)

Andrew Babbage

Written by

Reformed engineer, strategy lover, marketer. Removing bias from recruitment

Finding Needles in Haystacks

The ongoing story of Applied, a team obsessed with using science to make workplaces fairer and more efficient by removing hiring bias and replacing it with things more predictive of potential. (photo: Shibuya Crossing © Joshua Damasio)

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