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How has your Gender Pay Data Dictated your Narrative?

As the Government’s April 4th (private sector) deadline for publishing gender pay gap data fast approaches, a recent think tank we hosted at Lansons revealed that although most companies have their data ready, many are still debating internally how they want to talk about it.

Last month, we partnered with My Family Care to host a Gender Pay Gap Reporting Think Tank. Through a combination of presentations and panel discussions, three events took place over the day. The purpose was to help companies consider how best to tell the story behind their data to effectively position their results both inside and outside of their organisation.

<img src="shutterstock_700077655.jpg" alt="Gender Pay Gap Reporting">

I had the pleasure of representing Lansons and was joined by experts including Jennifer Liston-Smith, director, head of coaching and consultancy of My Family Care, Ed Bowyer, employment partner at leading law firm Hogan Lovells who talked about the legal challenges, Ann Francke, CEO, Chartered Management Institute who shared some fascinating data that looked at the problems, pitfalls and practices of women in industry, Nina Hamilton, partner at The Omerta Group who talked about attracting and retaining female talent in the financial sector; and Lara Warburton, UK diversity and inclusion manager at Rolls-Royce who shared a great story on how they sourced, crafted and communicated their data.

What was great to see was that nearly everyone, across all three events, had sourced their data. However, many were struggling with how to talk about it. My presentation focused on the six practical steps companies can take to create and communicate a compelling narrative, helping you to turn the reputational risk of gender pay reporting into a reputational opportunity. These are:

  1. Provide context – so that you can confidently explain your data
  2. Understand the cause – outline the underlying factors that have contributed to your gender pay gap
  3. Articulate your plan – how you are improving gender equality across your business
  4. Create a narrative – be clear on the story you want to tell to support your approach
  5. Prepare your spokespeople – help your leaders, managers and customer facing colleagues be clear on the data, the narrative and how to respond to likely questions
  6. Plan your communications – make sure you’re clear on how you will first talk about this with employees, before you publish your results externally

One of my biggest concerns about the gender pay gap is that the response is too individual. Companies produce their individual data and explain the individual reasons for those numbers, such as having more females in part-time roles. Yet so many of these individual reasons are in fact industry-wide issues, such as a skills shortage of senior women in finance or female engineers. We see many companies making strong steps to improve this situation, such as shared parental leave policies and supporting women back into work after career breaks. Yet, I am unclear about how some companies can set such ambitious gender pay targets when what’s needed to achieve them is not fully in their control.

This was why I was pleased to hear Lara’s presentation about Rolls-Royce. Her company is working with its competitors to collectively address the issues surrounding female talent in engineering. Wouldn’t it be great to see more industries – technology for example – come together as a collective and work with Government and other organisations to influence change? Not only would that be great for women, great for industry, but it would be great for these differentiating brands too. The Women in Finance Charter is a good example in the financial services industry. However, more can be done.

We all have a responsibility to make our world a better place. Levelling out the gender pay field is one opportunity where companies can help fulfil that responsibility. Together, I believe they can make a difference.

At Lansons, we can help review your gender pay gap communications plan, help build your narrative and manage a workshop to equip your senior teams to explain the gender pay gap for your organisation. If you’d like to discuss how we could help, please contact us at genderpaygap@lansons.com.