Gender pay – the hard work has barely begun

Yesterday, David Cameron announced a new consultation on tackling the gender pay gap.
Yesterday, David Cameron announced a new consultation on tackling the gender pay gap.

Last week I took a morning out of my holiday to discuss gender and ethics with a group of PR and business leaders in Cornwall.  It was inspiring to hear some of the stories from the men and women present as to how they have overcome obstacles and thrived, not just survived.

One of those obstacles, is that of being paid less to do the same job.

We discussed it looking at the data and evidence that came out of the 2015 CIPR State of the Profession Research – which revealed after significant data analysis, the only reason for more than two-thirds of public relations’ £12,591 pay gap – is gender, and gender alone.

I am embarrassed by this statistic. It has to be tackled. We must deliver change.

So, this week the Government announced plans to consult with businesses with more than 250 staff on how they should start to collect and report back on their data, and no doubt they will undertake thorough examination of the statistics too.

Yet whilst reporting facts and figures are fine, and it’s taken more than three years of research for us to know what we know about PR, we should focus on the subsequent action to truly really deliver change.

Since we first started to address this directly in 2013, the CIPR has delivered fundamental changes to the way in which women are supported through maternity leave as part of their membership; delivered detailed guidance and advice on implementing organisation-wide flexible working; and, introduced best practice guidance for line managers on managing maternity leave, to name just three alone. These are real tangible outputs to support anyone and everyone working in PR.

We have received great support from leaders in government, pressure groups, as well as from other professional bodies and trade associations, and it’s fantastic to now see the PRCA coming out and speaking out with great candor about the importance of this vital work.

Yet, I truly believe that as a whole, the business of public relations can – and should, be doing more.

We shouldn’t miss a terrific opportunity to ask our industry’s consultants association to do its part. I would urge colleagues from the PRCA to ask all agencies applying for their much sought after Consultancy Management Standard to have to include an analysis of their pay by gender in all submissions, and for it to be factored in to an overall score.

Without proactive steps forward that go beyond the Government’s proposed approach, 99.9% of the UK’s PR agencies will unfortunately slip through the net.

The CIPR will represent to legislators, what we know through our data that SME employers contribute to the existence and proliferation of this gap, and should not be ignored, especially in PR.

One of the biggest issues we have discovered across the sector – from businesses large and small – in house to agency – is the lack of skills and knowledge in people and performance management in managing and implementing fair and equal pay systems.

Many people told us at roundtables we hosted in May, how there are no set processes in place for determining pay across the board, with broad pay bands in place and people often employed simply based on what they’re confident in asking for, or a percentage increase based on the salary they used to earn.

This a million miles away from best practice, and is something we will dig deeper into through further research later this month. We will then deliver support and action for members, through new partnerships and support.

It’s my belief that this is a moment in time – and for each and every one of us in public relations, an opportunity that cannot be missed. I encourage all of our members to take part in the Government’s consultation.

If we fail to represent our industry, we will see it falling behind, not just deterring new entrants into our industry; but more importantly having trained and invested in women, finding that they leave the industry when they hit the gender pay brick wall.

“While I am proud of the progress made, there can be no room for complacency” said Nicky Morgan yesterday. As a PR professional. As a woman. As a mother. As the President of this Institute. For the future of public relations. I couldn’t agree more.

Sarah Pinch FCIPR, MIoD is MD of Pinch Point Communications, President of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations in 2015, and a Non Executive Director of the Health and Safety Executive.

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