Gender pay gap reporting duties offer tech companies a chance to attract female talent, says expert

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Gender pay gap reporting duties offer tech companies a chance to attract female talent, says expert

ANALYSIS: Technology companies should use their gender pay gap (GPG) reporting duties as a chance to attract female talent.07 Feb 2018

The deadline for organisations to report on their GPG is fast approaching. All private and voluntary sector employers with more than 250 staff must publish their GPG position as at 5 April 2017 by 4 April 2018.

The gender pay gap reporting regulations require employers to publish their overall mean and median pay gaps based on gross hourly pay for men and women, expressed as a percentage; as well as their mean and median gender bonus gaps, and further detail the proportion of male and female employees within each quartile of their pay distribution, ordered from lowest to highest pay, as well as the proportion of both men and women that have been paid a bonus in the preceding 12 month period. Similar requirements came into force for public sector employers on 31 March 2017.

However, employers should not view GPG reporting as just a statistical exercise. There is a real opportunity to develop a narrative to put the figures into context, detail the positive initiatives being undertaken to address any pay differentials, and further 'sell' the organisation as an attractive and rewarding place to work for people of all genders and backgrounds.

There is a particular onus on technology companies to do so.

Currently, just 17% of all those working in technology in the UK are female. That is not to say that there are not talented women working in the sector – the recent Women in IT Awards in London provided evidence of that – but there is a challenge to overcome in boosting the number of women working in the sector.

An important factor in addressing that disparity is ensuring that women are valued and want to work in the sector – addressing GPG issues is a central part of that.

The gender gap in technology starts well before the workplace, in schools and universities.  Women and girls are often not attracted to pursue a career in technology because they lack information on what working in the sector involves, and because the option just is not showcased sufficiently for them. A general lack of female role models – just 5% of leadership positions in the UK tech sector are held by women – does not help inspire young women to seek a career in the sector either.

The fact that the sector is male-dominated can also put off women and girls who do have an interest in the sector pursuing it as a career option. A recent study showed that more than half of women who studied STEM subjects did not end up taking up careers within the STEM sector.

That there is a pay gap, and a perception that working in technology means long hours, travelling and a requirement to constantly update technical skills, might also put some women off.

However, employers can use the opportunity their GPG report narrative presents to tackle preconceptions and highlight the positive steps being taken to improve the situation for female talent.

I would encourage all employers to include a narrative explaining what the organisation is doing to close the pay gap and make their organisation a more attractive option for women.

Some employers have included examples of role models, and biographies of women working in the organisation sharing their experiences might also help to demonstrate what things are really like for women. Featuring images in the GPG report of women who already work with the organisation can help female readers relate to the organisation, challenge preconceived ideas of a male-centric workforce, and help them envisage working at the company.

Employers should also outline the commitment they have to diversity and inclusion programmes more generally. They can do this by making reference to specific projects or initiatives, and link them to broader action plans. For example, businesses could also highlight what they are doing by way of outward looking and supportive initiatives in the community, such as any support they provide to schools and universities concerning STEM subjects and girls.

Research carried out by PWC in 2017 showed that an important factor for females in their careers was feeling like the work they do has a wider impact and makes the world a better place. Technology absolutely has the potential for that, but women need to be made more aware that this is the case.

A more effective narrative is needed to attract and retain female talent in the technology sector. The GPG report is an ideal place to start getting the central messages across.

Amy Hextell is an expert in employment law at Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com.

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