The Female Lead

Gender Pay Gap Reporting Year 1: What have we learned?

We’re days away from the deadline for British companies to disclose their gender pay and bonus gaps for the last year. You’ve most likely seen this year’s risers and fallers and how many years it will take before the national overall gap beings to shrink – a shocking half a century!

Some organisations are still struggling with the calculations, many leave reporting until the last minute, what’s crucial is that we have a benchmark to focus on improving progression and opportunities to achieve equality at all levels.

This week, The Female Lead headed to the London Business School to hear from the Global Institute of Women’s Leadership and esteemed panellists from the worlds of government, business, academia and media to reflect on 1 year of reporting and the important lessons that we can all take forward into year two.

The story so far 

Last April, 10,500 or so eligible employers reported the full extent of pay differences between men and women in UK companies. The results were stark – with more than 85% of companies disclosing a mean pay gap (and 80% a mean bonus gap) in favour of men.

The reporting resulted in a national conversation with the media’s involvement only adding fuel to the fire! It’s likely that this is only the very beginning of both the scope of pay gap reporting, and the impact it will have.



What we’ve learnt so far…


Measurement is a positive start

The gender pay gap reporting is a step in the right direction. Pay differences are now out in the open. Companies are being held accountable and CEOs, chairs and members of the leadership team are finally taking this matter seriously.

We ne
ed to debias systems, not people

While some types of unconscious bias training may have some limited positive effects, there is currently no evidence this this training changes behaviour or improves workplace equality.  Laura Jones, GIWL Research Associate stated that “We need to put the onus on changing structures – not individuals.”

Improving, measuring and evaluating recruitment, promotion and talent management processes; supporting part-time workers; and creating an environment where women feel that they fit and belong, can enable women to progress. We highly recommend you take a look at the Government’s Equalities Office infographic on what works to reduce the gender pay gap.


“It’s important for men to get involved and be advocates of change. We must break down the stigmas holding men back from taking paternity leave"


Men as agents for change

“It’s really important for men to get involved and be advocates of change. We must break down the stigmas holding men back from taking paternity leave for example” Guy Grainger, CEO of Investment Management Company JLL.

At the same time, we know that men can be equally constrained by stereotypes. For instance, while we should be supporting more women to become pilots we should also be seeding equality by encouraging more men to become cabin crew.

Normalise part-time working

Gender pay gap expert, Helene Reardon-Bond and former head of Gender and Equality at the Government Equalities Office (GEO) said “A working-life balance needs to be modelled from the top of an organisation. Senior leaders should be encouraged to champion flexible working and men need to help remove stigma and the stereotype that this is just for women”.

There needs to be less focus on how long people spend at their desks and more concern for performance and outcomes!

Gender pay gap has roots in school years

Girls are steered away from certain subjects at school. There is a misconception that boys are better at numeracy and that’s why they’re entering these subjects. We must all encourage women to choose and stay in STEM research, related careers, start-ups and entrepreneurial firms.  “We must tackle social conditioning that starts at a very early age” said Helen Lamprell, General Counsel and External Affairs Director at Vodafone UK.

“Women make up less than 15% of all people working in STEM in the UK” Edwina Dunn, Founder of The Female Lead points out, something that’s largely due to a “huge drop-off” in girls choosing to study subjects such as maths, physics and computing beyond GCSE level. She hopes that The Female Lead and Future Finder (the free web app that links a-level subject choices with STEM jobs) will encourage more girls to consider STEM careers.

Gender is one lens

We should also be looking to use other lenses, such as ethnicity and age, to get a better understanding of what barriers to progress exist and how they may be overcome.

“More needs to be done on intersectionality and we must welcome the prospect of Ethnicity Pay gap reporting” said Helene Reardon-Bond.


Closing the gender pay gap will not be plain sailing. It reflects broader inequalities at play in society and will therefore not happen in a single reporting cycle. We must remember that equality is not a zero-sum game and that change is possible with concrete actions. 

Let’s close the #genderpaygap!


Equal pay vs the gender pay gap

The gender pay gap is, at is simplest, the difference between the average wages of men and women regardless of seniority. Equal pay is a different but connected issue, which is about pay difference between men and women who are paid differently for ‘like-work’, ‘work of equal value’. This has been prohibited under UK law since the 1970s .