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Five ways to close gender pay gap

Now that companies and professional services firms have filed their first gender pay gap reports, it is more important than ever to take action, according to executive coach Geraldine Gallacher.

Geraldine Gallacher

May 2018

With the first gender pay gap reports filed, professional services firms are now beginning the task of closing their gender pay gap. It’s really important they do so. In little under a year they will file again, this time with a clear expectation from employees and government that the gap will be diminished.

Forward thinking employers are beginning to consult with staff on the most effective ways to achieve this. Here are five key points for your organisation to consider:

Keep partner data in not out of your report

All credit to Deloitte for leading the way for professional services firms to include partner earnings. Yes, the adjustment resulted in the publication of a less favourable report but in doing so Deloitte has highlighted one of the major causes of the gap, the lack of women at partner level.

Take time to understand what’s causing the pay gap in your organisation

Disclosure alone will not close the gap. Organisations really need to get to grips with what’s causing it to understand how to address it. The following factors are likely to be present in many organisations; a lack of women at the centre of decision making, unconscious bias in a system predominantly run by men, and criticism of women who seek to lead or self-promote as pushy or bossy, but each organisation will need to work out what its own priorities are.

Check assumptions about current working practices 

Many enable the pay gap to continue, particularly those surrounding working mums whose careers can stall post-maternity. It’s often assumed that it’s ‘natural’ that a new mother will want to spend more time with her child than a new father would and adjust her work accordingly. In practice, it’s an absence of flexible schedules and role models demonstrating a balanced life that lead many women to conclude it isn’t possible to progress their career at the same rate after having children.

Added to which, colleagues, male and female, often give a newly returned mother less onerous work intending to make life easier for her. But it can mean she misses out on high profile, stretching assignments necessary to get on track for partnership.

Offer penalty free, flexible working by default

Work/home responsibilities split down gender lines are fading. Today, young men want greater flexibility, a better work-life balance and to share work/parenting responsibilities equitably with their partners. Offering flex to all will remove the stigma attached to women working this way. By tracking pay and progress, employers can check staff aren’t being penalised for working flexibly.

Create room at the top

Many men in senior roles find their jobs fulfilling and understandably have no desire to fall off a cliff into retirement. This has become a sticking point for organisations seeking to promote more women to partner/board level. It’s worth exploring with senior staff whether they might enjoy being a partner on a part-time basis, enabling them to pursue other interests.

Geraldine Gallacher is founder and MD of the Executive Coaching Consultancy.

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