Today is Equal Pay Day.
This is the point in the year where women, on average, stop earning in comparison to men. We’ve all heard the stats: they’re depressing, and well-trodden territory for commentators.
But what isn’t being said?
At last week’s BloomFest — our inaugural conference — we decided to face this issue head on as part of our “Naked Truths” theme, and ask our attendees and speakers to say what they really feel is driving the enduring Pay Gap. Here’s what they said.
There are two sides to the problem.
One side is about transparency. It’s about breaking that most British of taboos: talking about how much you earn, so that we stop hiding behind unknown figures. As the journalist and broadcaster Harriet Minter summed up in our hair-raising debate, “It is a feminist act to tell another woman what you’re paid”.
Using actual salaries to reveal where there’s a genuine imbalance pressurises companies and industries into making this a priority. Campaigns such as Elle / Mother’s work, the recently released figures from the BBC, and the new Government requirement for employers of over 250 to publish their pay gap have made headway in starting these conversations. And it works: by the end of the final BloomFest session focusing on the issue, panellist Nick Hugh, CEO of the Telegraph Group vowed to improve their pay gap.
So what’s the other side of the challenge? It’s identifying the underlying causes of imbalance. The reasons why women drop out of the workforce early, or make slower progress up the ranks than their male colleagues. At BloomFest, we set up a “Booth of Truth” to allow women to tell us these reasons anonymously.
The themes that came out were that women still face being devalued and patronised out of positions of power, flexible working hours not being accommodated, and at the extreme end, being sexually harassed. We believe that all of these factors feed into the Equal Pay debate, and must be spoken about, with both women and men driving the conversation.
So what learnings can we take away from these stories?
Don’t assume because the problem isn’t obvious, that it isn’t there. These things are happening. Think about how you can structure your teams and companies to empower and enable women to reach their potential. And start the conversation about pay. Share the facts so we can bring them out in the open.