6 ways PRs can lead the Pledge for Parity on International Women’s Day

Since taking hold of the CIPR State of the Profession survey back in 2012, I’ve been particularly keen and interested that we use the opportunity to focus on issues influencing gender equality.

In an industry where women make up roughly two-thirds of the workforce (64% at the last count) – it’s a sad reflection on the state of the business that for the past few years the survey has revealed an epic equality gap that exists when it comes to the PR pay packet.

The CIPR driving the debate on this for the past four years hasn’t simply been because equality (in all its forms) is the right, the moral, or the professional, thing to do. In public relations, practitioners also tell us that diverse/balanced teams deliver more effective communications outcomes. On top of that, we also know it makes business sense.

So, with new data being published by the CIPR in just a few weeks time (State of the Profession 2016 will arrive w/c 21st March – drop me a tweet if you want to get on the distribution list), on International Women’s Day 2016 check out six ways I believe that PR professionals can lead their own pledge for parity.

1. Drown the dinosaurs with data

We all know T-Rex was downed by a tidal wave of epic proportions, and for those who still suppose that “women get paid less, because they work less”, simply supplying the facts can cause a splash.

The mean average salary difference between men and women in public relations is £12,591.

£8,483 or 67% of that figure is the influence of gender alone. It cannot be explained by any other factor such as length of service, seniority, parenthood, or a higher prevalence of part-time work amongst women.

2. Believe in the business case

If you’re yet to be convinced of the business case for diversity, last month the Peterson Institute for International Economics – a top ten internationally recognised Global Go To Think Tank – added to the already exhaustive evidence base with new research which found that:

The correlation between women at the C-suite level and firm profitability is demonstrated repeatedly, and the magnitude of the estimated effects is not small.

Need more? Try McKinsey, the Center for Talent, Innovation or Growth or peruse the FT’s collection of ‘Equality in the workplace‘ articles.

3. Learn to love legal

If the carrots above aren’t enough, making a manager or employer aware of their legal obligations is probably the last step for those equal pay naysayers or sceptics.

The Equality Act 2010 entitles a woman doing equal work with a man in the same employment to equality in not just basic pay but also access to overtime, holidays, a company car and all other components of the pay package.

The EHRC says that “unless differences can be objectively justified, jobs which are the same or broadly similar should have the same pay”. In practice this means if similar jobs are not to be regarded as like work, the differences must be of practical importance. Apparently what we may even see as dissimilar jobs can be seen as like work. In our sector this could be interpreted as being an Account Director for one client vs. the work of another Account Director for another.

In addition to the Equalities Act, other key legal documents that all employers and employees should be aware of are the Children and Families Act 2014 and the Shared Parental Leave Regulations, also brought forward in 2014.

4. Get inspired by innovators

Under current proposals, government legislation on gender pay reporting only requires six of the UK’s largest public relations firms (250+ staff) to comply. SMEs make up 99% of PR business, and there’s appetite from smaller business owners to lead the sector forward in committing to voluntarily report on their own. Dynamo PR are one of those leading lights and co-founder Paul Cockerton has this to say:

As a male owned company, we’ve also been following with interest the UN #HeForShe gender equality campaign. This of course has a much wider remit than pay within small companies like ours, but none-the-less Peter Bowles and I, as the male owners and co-founders of Dynamo, fully support, and will continue to take positive action against gender discrimination.

It would be great to see many more do the same.

5. Beaver away at best practice

Tackling the gender pay gap is a problem that should be more acute for small and medium sized businesses, rather than large companies with well supported, skilled and knowledgeable HR and people management functions – such as the Edelman’s, Weber Shandwick’s and Freuds of this world. So for PR, acquiring the skills and knowledge to achieve gender pay parity is key.

This can be achieved through enabling our leaders to take more accountability in order to make better and fairer decisions on pay and reward, and also acknowledge that the PR managers and directors of today, and tomorrow, must be more rounded professionals, and not just a clever guy or girl, who has an eye for creative copy – or a way with words.

Accessing professional standard training, knowledge and resources on delivering equal pay and performance management doesn’t cost the earth. Check out this free advice already on offer from CIPD, EHRC, ACAS and pressure group ‘Close the Gap‘.

6. Aim for agility

Promoting, guiding and supporting flexible or agile working is just one route to counter the fact that in senior management roles our industry is losing talented women at an alarming rate. Gender aside, PR is recognised as an ‘always on’ profession, and every practitioner deserves to have working practices that reflect this and support the needs of both workers and clients.

At the CIPR we published our own free 28-page guide to flexible working back in 2014. It’s a starting point for management staff looking to create a forward-thinking team that has high morale, strong retention and is fit for the future, and within are nine practical recommendations to put flexible working in to practice.

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