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Becky Franklin of JFG Comms and young female graduates / the gender pay gap

By Becky Franklin

In many ways, I count myself very lucky that I went to an all girls’ school. Growing up in that environment, I didn’t understand the concept of gender inequality because it was something I was never going to experience. From the age of 4, we were taught, as girls, that we could do anything, be anything and no one could prevent us from our own success. We were the lucky ones.

Now, just starting out in my career, that childhood optimism, although still with me, is less true of the world I have entered. Women still have to fight to prove their intelligence, face criticism for their choice of clothes or makeup, choose between a family and a career and, we’re still discriminated against at work.

For someone new to the world of work, my question is – how, in 2019, are we still allowing such a skewed version of equality to prevail?

Mind the Gap

Following the 2017 decision that large companies in the UK must publish their gender pay gap data, it was thought shining a light on offending companies would be a catalyst for change. But from reports recently published, it has become clear the pay gap in many private companies is actually widening.

To many, this feels like we are hitting our head against a brick wall.

This blog is not commenting on the unlawful act of unequal pay, but the fact that 4 in 10 private companies have found there is a growing median pay difference between their male and female employees. This is despite many of these firms employing new ‘tactics’ to increase their female to male ratio.

Solving the Problem

From the outside looking in, it seems the need to release pay gap data has uncovered issues within many companies’ DNA.

In order to close the gap, it appears some organisations have felt the solution was to use unsustainable, quick fixes such as clustering women into entry-level jobs instead of hiring throughout the employment hierarchy. This has, unintentionally, caused the gap to grow and amplified the problem.

While in the long run this may see more women eventually progress to higher levels, it will take many years for this to happen.

Silver Lining

However, all is not lost.

The historically male dominated professions such as construction, engineering and transport are successfully recruiting more women.

Although pay gap figures are still quite stark, the only way to solve the problem is to attract more junior women through apprenticeships and graduate schemes.

Simply having more women included in these professions is a great step in the right direction. As CEO of Women in Science and Engineering, Helen Wollaston said in a recent issue of New Civil Engineer:

“The gaps will close if these sectors continue their efforts in female recruitment.

“The challenge now, is to maintain a positive experience for prospective and current female employees to make sure they stay within the industry and climb the ranks.”

For these industries, this could be a breakthrough. But it is vital we help these companies retain their female talent.

Are we there yet?

Not quite. I feel that business culture hasn’t quite caught up with the legislation.

My generation is different. 

We have grown up with a different sense of self-belief.  We won’t want to work for companies that aren’t doing enough to tackle the gender pay gap.

These reports of a continuing gender pay gap instil little confidence that enough is being done. There is still no legal requirement for companies to publish how they plan to reduce the gap within their organisation, nor are they penalised for the lack of improvement.

But it is vital this is corrected. After all, the entry of women into the workforce has provided one of the largest ever increases in economic productivity and has made substantial contributions to the development of many fields of work.

So, to that young girl, dreaming about her future profession with no qualms about what the world holds for her – in 2019, there have been great strides for female advancement in many aspects of employment, but we are still not on top of the gender pay gap.

How can we close the gap?

Here are five things employers can do to inspire young women, improve workforce diversity and attract and retain women at all levels:

  1. Research gender issues: This will help an organisation better understand their own gender issues and inform the development of diversity and inclusion strategy.
  1. Profile women doing all jobs at all levels in the company: This will provide young people with visible role models and inspire them to consider careers in the sector.
  1. Create ‘toolkits’ and case studies to provide best practice advice to help your senior leaders and colleagues build and develop inclusive teams.
  1. Actively encourage flexible and agile working for all staff. This should be led from the top. Senior leaders, especially male senior leaders, should be seen to work flexibly.
  1. Establish women’s networking groups to help women in your organisation gain confidence in their ability to make connections.

If you would like more information on how JFG Communications can help your company build a gender diverse workforce, check out Our Work or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..