Unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ll have heard of the gender pay gap. You might also have heard the date 20 November - after which women are effectively working for free. There’s a slim chance you might know that businesses with over 250 employees need to report their gender pay gap annually.
It’s a real issue, with real implications. How do we close it? That’s the question everyone is asking.
Recruitment sits in a unique position of influence, without any closing influence. What do we mean by that? Recruitment teams can play a part in which candidates are put forward for a role but they don’t determine who’s successful. But that sliver of influence means there’s a lot that recruitment can do to promote equality and move towards closing the gap.
What is the gender pay gap?
In 1970 the Equal Pay Act came into law, making it illegal to discriminate between men and women when it came to terms of employment, i.e. pay. Despite that law being in place for over 50 years there’s still a stark contrast between men and women when it comes to their earnings.
The gender pay gap is the difference in average gross hourly earnings between men and women. In the UK the gender pay gap at age 30 is 1%, this rises to 14% by the time workers are aged 40.
Covid-19 has played a part in worsening the gender pay gap over recent years, so it’s difficult to say whether there’s been an improvement over the years. Amongst full-time employees the pay gap was 8.3% in April 2022 compared to 9% in April 2019. This does follow the overarching trend that the gap is slowly declining, but there’s still a great deal more to be done.
What role does recruitment play?
As a recruitment agency it would be easy for us to pass the blame to other people. It’s our clients that interview and set the salaries. It’s the candidates who don’t push for more, or accept low offers. But the truth is for society to close the gender pay gap we all need to take responsibility and all need to play our part.
There are many ways that recruiters, whether external or in-house, can help to promote equality throughout the recruitment process.
● Encourage women to apply for senior roles
● Include more women in referral networks
● Be aware of gender bias
It’s the last point that is the most critical. We all hold stereotypes about gender. Whether that’s believing that women are suited to certain roles, or the style of working men and women prefer and the impact on their careers.
Understanding, and eradicating, gender bias is the foundation to closing the gender pay gap. This starts with the job advert itself and looking at what recruitment channels you’re using, the language in the advert and the essential requirements. Are they accessible to both male and female candidates? It’s important to examine the language in job adverts as in an analysis of 77,000 job adverts - 478,175 words carried gender bias which is an average of 6 male or female-coded words per advert.
It’s amazing the impact a name can have. Removing personal details from an application or CV such as name, education details and dates levels the playing field instantly. There’s no time for your brain to calculate that Sarah is a 35-year-old woman applying for a Senior Manager position and what if she goes on maternity leave. Instead you have to make a decision based on the information you have, not the bias in your mind.
Diversity in action
Women need to see women in the roles they aspire to have. Including senior women in the interview process and demonstrating a commitment to diversity and inclusion is a surefire way to attract and secure more female candidates. It will also help reduce gender bias on a panel through a wider range of experiences and opinions.
What more could recruitment do?
There is always more that can be done by everyone. While the overall trend of the gender pay gap is decreasing, there’s still too much of a disparity. The role that recruitment plays in promoting equality is simple.
It’s to take the steps they can to level the playing field, through job adverts, language, accessibility. But it’s also to champion lesser represented candidates, approaching female candidates to apply for roles, pushing for equal remuneration packages for all candidates and using their position of oversight to help level the playing field.
We can close the gender pay gap, but it requires us all to play our part. To be aware of our bias and to take whatever steps we can to equalise our working environments.
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