Will Shame Close the Gender Pay Gap in Britain?

Britain’s new law requiring all companies with 250 or more employees to publically report their salary data and identify their gender pay gaps went into effect in April 2018. The gaps identified surprised no one: gender-based pay disparities exist at a vast majority of businesses, and often by a wide margin, according to Liz Alderman of the New York Times. A number of Western countries have recently taken similar steps with requiring gender gap reporting, operating from the same assumption that transparency and shame will force change. Gaps exist at some notable British companies:

  • At Goldman Sachs women are paid an average of 56 percent less than men.
  • At easyJet men outearn women by 52 percent.
  • At WPP, the British advertising giant, women take home, on average, around one-quarter less.
  • Mills & Reeve, a British law firm, pays women an average of 32 percent less than men.

Alderman reports that while supporters of the new British reporting regulations acknowledge that shame and transparency alone are not likely to solve the pay gap problem, a recent study, “by the accounting firm PwC predicts that if nothing is done, it could take nearly a century for the divide to close entirely.” British regulators assume that transparency will create pressure on companies to address the pay gap. Alderman notes that one study reported by Jake Rosenfeld and Patrick Denice of Washington University found that transparency raised wages, in part because becoming aware of the pay disparity helped change organizational norms.

While several Western countries, including Britain, Germany, the Nordic countries, and Australia have mandated gender pay gap reporting, the United States has taken steps backward. In 2017, the Trump administration rolled back reporting requirements put in place by an Obama-era initiative to close the pay gap. Women in the United States can take their own action:

  • Follow the example of British women who started a #PayMeToo campaign on Twitter to encourage employees to talk about how much they are paid.
  • Start their own collection of salary information within their companies and publish it to put pressure on their organization to close the pay gap.
  • Demand that their legislators pass laws at the state and federal levels to bring about transparency.
  • Vote for candidates who care about the gender pay gap.

Women are not going to receive equal pay for the same work as men unless we raise our voices and keep the pressure on.

Anne Litwin, Ph.D. is an Organizational Development and Human Resources Consultant, Keynote Speaker, and Author of ‘New Rules for Women: Revolutionizing the Way Women Work Together.’

Originally published at www.annelitwin.com on May 21, 2018.

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