Scottish Parliament on gender pay gap

The Scottish Parliament has a Committee on Economy, Jobs and Fair Work.  I like the normative character of the last bit in the title;  it goes along with the new emphasis on quality of work in the upcomingTaylor report (cf my previous post).

The Committee has just produced an excellent report:  No Small Change: the economic potential of closing the gender pay gap.  (Minor declaration of interest: I submitted evidence to it.)   Many of the issues are very familiar, e.g. on recruiting more women into STEM subjects and the need to build in greater opportunities for flexible working, but none the less important for all that.  The report does a really good job in unpacking the differences between equal pay and the gender pay gap (with an intricate infographic which I can’t seem to copy in here).  It stresses the importance of including part-time work, and so the need for a suite of indicators rather than a single measure.  It seems that the gender pay gap in Scotland is somewhat above the OECD average, as is the UK generally.

As the title suggests, the focus is on the economic costs of the pay gap and the potential benefits in closing the gap.  In my submission I made the point that the calculations made usually depend very much on the assumptions made, and so are subject to a huge degree of variance, but there is little doubt that they can be very big.  The Committee considers the reports made by McKinsey and others on the picture for the UK and, not unreasonably, calls for more detailed analysis for Scotland. The report includes information on the way the gap changes for different age groups, and I hope they will indeed look at this in detail.

The recommendations are pragmatic and manageable.  For example,

..the Scottish Government, its agencies, and the Scottish Parliament ensure their job application forms contain a section allowing applicants to set out if they want to work flexibly and if so, in what way. The Committee encourages other businesses and organisations to do the same.

And, in relation to older workers:

different solutions are needed for different sectors, and that approaches to returners‘ programmes should be tailored accordingly, drawing on best practice examples wherever available.

But I was particularly struck by the section on language and imagery, in relation to advertising jobs but also to the actual job description.  Scottish Water had this to say:

.. if when we talk about engineering roles we call them ‘design roles’ it makes them much more attractive to women. It starts to create a connection between art and design. Often, the language or terminology can shut off someone‘s thinking about the possibility of those roles before they are even aware of what the roles are.

The report has another nice infographic on the leaky pipe, which I could see working as a good device for getting discussion going in many different occupations.

So it’s another step on the road.  A recent reminder of how uneven progress has been came from Marc Pritchard, CEO of Procter & Gamble.  Speaking at Cannes Lions, the annual lovefest of the advertising industry, he quoted a World Economic Forum study that showed economic participation falling back, and a stubborn 20% pay gap.  Pritchard also quoted a study from the Geena Davis Institute (good to see this initiative) which shows that of the characters in films who have a job only 25% are women.  This parallels my difficulty in finding fiction that portrays women at work.  Images count.

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