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The gender pay gap is a reputational risk that you cannot afford to ignore

This morning the BBC admitted that two-thirds of its top earners are men, revealing the extent of the gender pay gap in the media industry. Chris Evans tops the chart making between £2.2 and 2.5m over the last year. In fact, the top seven highest paid employees are all men. Claudia Winkleman, Alex Jones and Fiona Bruce are the only women in the top 10. Although combined, their salary is around £1.2m, just half of what Chris Evans earns in total. I guess the BBC rewards performance, after that stellar Top Gear series…    

The backlash from female presenters has already started, with Jane Garvey sarcastically tweeting “I’m looking forward to presenting @BBCWomansHour today. We’ll be discussing #GenderPayGap . As we’ve done since 1946. Going well, isn’t it?” And Charlotte Smith offering to take one for the team, “I’m happy to accept a pay rise to help the BBC out with its gender pay gap problem.. #notonthelist.”

The BBC is one of many organisations that are likely to come under fire for having a significant gender pay gap. Unless you live under a rock, you will know that employers in Great Britain with more than 250 staff will be required by law to publish figures annually on their own website and on a government website by 6 April 2018.

The BBC is currently providing us with a perfect example of the public criticism you may face if your business does not prepare for the reputational implications of the gender pay gap. Not to mention the ethical reasons for paying your employees fairly.

Smart business leaders will recognise gender pay gap reporting as an opportunity to proactively address the issue head on and position themselves as leading the way on pay equality. Some companies are already ahead of the curve.

Yesterday, UK challenger bank TSB revealed a 31% gender pay gap. However, they turned this into an opportunity to call on UK companies to “come clean” over gender imbalance in the workplace and reveal the “root cause” of why women are paid less than men. Moreover, TSB is introducing measures to reduce the gap. They are starting a campaign to attract more women into financial services, drawing up gender-balanced shortlists when recruiting at all levels and plan to offer programmes to ensure better succession planning for women to reach executive roles.

The bank is publishing its pay gap data on the government site next week, so it remains to be seen how they will communicate, and indeed deliver, their plans. Of the handful of companies that have already reported their figures (just 28, if you’re asking), a couple have gone beyond the minimum requirement to complete the stark Government report. PwC published their gender pay gap figures as a colourful and engaging report, emphasising their employer brand. They refer to action taken to address gender pay gaps, but miss the opportunity to include stories, proof-points and case studies to substantiate their claims.

Similarly, Virgin Money has published their gender pay gap report as an on-brand and digestible report. However, Jayne-Anne Gadhia doesn’t take advantage of the opportunity to outline an action plan for rectifying this imbalance, despite the fact she presumably has an interest as female CEO of the company.

Rather than being seen simply as a tick-box exercise, gender pay gap reporting presents an opportunity for businesses to differentiate themselves amongst their competitors. The savviest brands will see the value in developing a compelling narrative on the gender pay gap and wider diversity issues, providing contextual stories and case studies to bolster their claims. Not to mention the opportunity for employer brand development, using the gender pay gap as a platform to highlight their efforts to address inequality, in order to recruit, retain and develop female talent.

The gender pay gap is a reputational risk that companies cannot afford to ignore. Not only does it provide the media with a potential field-day, as we have seen today with the BBC, but it could also severely damage your employer brand. So unless you want half of your workforce going viral on Twitter for all the wrong reasons, I’d suggest you act now.

If you’d like to talk to us about what you need to do to prepare for the gender pay gap report, and how to use this as an opportunity to enhance your reputation, get in touch: