Pay gaps and sticky doors

I don’t know why I’ve hardly posted in the last few weeks.  It must be something to do with hibernation – after all, there’s been more than enough to comment on from the PP point of view, especially with the growing interest in Gender Pay Gap reporting.

Actual data on the GPG is a bit slow in coming.  Organisations with more than 250 employees have known since last year that by April 1 they will have to have reported on the GPG on a number of dimensions:

  • mean gender pay gap
  • median gender pay gap
  • mean bonus gender pay gap
  • median bonus gender pay gap
  • proportion of males and females receiving a bonus payment
  • proportion of males and females in each pay quartile.

Yet with only a few weeks to go under 20% have submitted their returns.  Nevertheless this is already producing a stream of information.  I imagine that people are having a good look at the data from their own organisation, and maybe raising an eyebrow or two (or maybe not – the gaps may be something they are all too aware of already).  It is certainly giving us a much more detailed overview of what the gaps actually are;  how they vary between and within sectors; and what kinds of narrative organisations supply to explain the gaps.  As the reports pour in this picture will become richer;  and over the next couple of years we should get a really good idea of the trends, and of what actions are being taken.

It’s the comparisons between different quartiles that will really bite.  At a presentation I recently attended (organised mainly by comms agencies keen to help organisations tell their story) Ann Francke of the CMI urged people to look not just at the top and bottom quartiles, but at the second and third ones – this is where the glass pyramid really assumes its defining shape, as women slip out of career paths.

(I have to report one question from the floor:  how should we report people transitioning from one sex to another?  When the answer came that they do not need to be included, the questioner pondered aloud whether in that case his organisation could treat all the senior management as in transition, not report them – and thereby dramatically improve their GPG….)

Mention of the glass pyramid brings me to the spur that got me back to blogging.  I listened today to Dame Minouche Shafik giving us her Desert Island Discs.  Dame Minouche was the youngest ever VP at the World Bank, then Permanent Secretary at the Department for International Development, and then Deputy Governor at the Bank of England – some career.  Kirsty Wark asked her about glass ceilings and she said she didn’t find that image particularly helpful.  Instead, she said, we might think of the sticky door:  the woman on one side struggling to push it open, and social practices, traditions, discrimination and, just possibly, a man or two, making it difficult for her.  I have paraphrased and enlarged a bit on how she described the metaphor, but this was the essence.

I found the idea of the sticky door a very telling one – certainly one to add to the range of metaphors and images that we can use to explore the issue.  I had a quick google search to see if I could find a picture of this, but no luck.   My illustrator Chlo’e drew a sticky floor for me to use in the PP – maybe I can see if she’ll do a sticky door to match.


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