Six ways to tackle your gender pay gap

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution has a small gap, but research suggests that charities tend to pay men about 12 per cent more than women. So how do you bridge the gap?

RNLI: Relatively small gender pay gap
RNLI: Relatively small gender pay gap

1 Understand what your gender pay gap tells you

Each organisation will have different reasons for having a gender pay gap, so it is important that any attempt at addressing the issue is tailored to your charity.

Peter Swabey, policy and research director at ICSA: The Governance Institute, says it is important to examine the context in which the pay gap exists, especially if some of the factors behind it are societal, rather than organisational. Then the trustee board should ensure that the executive team is taking the appropriate action.

"The board sets the culture of the organisation," Swabey says. "So it is for the board to challenge the executives, hold their feet to the fire just a little bit and ask what they are doing about it.

"For me, that is something that should be on the agenda of every trustee board."

2  Look at your pay and recruitment policies

Trustees and charity senior executives should look at the existing salary structures. For example, some organisations have a formal process of grading jobs in place to address any imbalances in the salaries paid in certain positions in the charity. They also review pay policies on a regular basis through an annual pay review and a remuneration committee.

Jill Miller, diversity and inclusion adviser at the human resources professional body the CIPD, says that charities should look at how they advertise vacancies and what messages they send out to potential employees – and particularly to consider whether the language used to describe a role is gender-neutral.

Human resources departments should also work with line managers to explain how processes need to change in order to broaden the talent pool.

3 Offer flexible working

Part of the reason for the gender pay gap in many organisations is that fewer women progress into senior roles. One way to help women to rise up the ranks is to offer flexible working, according to the CIPD’s Miller.

She says that employers too often think flexible working is something that succeeds only in more junior roles, and fail to consider how staff working in more senior positions can juggle their parenting responsibilities.

Swabey agrees. "One of the constant issues we find affecting gender pay is that of childcare – that is, people taking time out of the workplace to have a family, and what happens when they come back," he says. "In many cases, there is a desire to work shorter hours, but there is a perception that this can be done effectively only in a lower-paid job. I don’t think that’s the case – you just have to think about it harder."

4 Create a talent pipeline

"It is about having a strong talent pipeline in place all the way through the organisation," Miller says. "If someone were to leave from executive level, you need a strong pipeline of people who could then take on that role and be prepped to do that."

She says charities should identify talented women in more junior roles and encourage them to apply for senior positions. They should also examine the points at which women choose to leave the organisation and put in place policies to try to keep its most talented people. For example, this could include reviewing their childcare policies to make it more likely that mothers will remain in work while raising their families.

5 Set up support networks

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution has a small gender pay gap compared with other large charities, with men on average earning only 0.7 per cent more than women. The charity puts parts of its success down to running support groups for women.

Sue Barnes, people director at the RNLI, says that it provides informal meetings for peer-to-peer support and networking opportunities. She says the network was set up to be a forum "for women’s voices to be heard" and to discuss the issues, practices and policies that affect women in the charity. The charity also asks staff to raise equality issues in its employee engagement surveys.

6 Help tackle broader socio-economic issues

In some cases, the factors contributing to a charity’s gender pay gap will be problems in society generally. For example, a research charity could have a gender pay imbalance because fewer women than men study and pursue careers in science subjects. Miller says charities should consider contributing to broader debates on issues such as skills shortages. They could even make an effort to work with schools to highlight prominent women in their organisation, encouraging a new generation of women to see the sciences as a career.

Miller says this would help to "get people interested at a young age who might not otherwise" and, in the long term, help to close the gender pay gap.

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