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Let’s do more to address the gender pay gap…now

The BBC pay gap has been making headlines now for a few days. But still the information coming out doesn’t cease to amaze me. Here is the Standard’s Rosamund Urwin pointing out that scandal-magnet John Inverdale earns more than national treasure Clare Balding; there is the report that execs from the Beeb tried to push through quickie pay rises to key women presenters: a thoroughly disingenuous ham-fisted cover up which clearly didn’t quite get to Emily Maitliss in time. Now we’ve seen an open letter from some of the BBC’s most high-profile female personalities to the director general urging him to ‘act now’. But will he?

Is there any hope that, in a generation’s time, we will look at the notion that two people doing the same job could be paid (drastically) differently as collective insanity? If Woman’s Hour has been talking about this issue since 1946 why can’t we move quicker to consign it to history alongside alongside whalebone corsets and dowries?

Well there are three things that get my backing:

Pointing the finger

Stop blaming women for them getting paid less. This wasn’t just twitter chatter but was even heard on Newsnight. We can negotiate just fine and to suggest we can’t is exactly why we are in this mess. But while we are here, how about negotiating classes for anyone at manager level, conducted in mixed gender groups.  Very valuable and very revealing in my book. And don’t hide behind ‘market rates’ – let’s take this as an opportunity to reset the market rate to an equal one.

Phantom pregnancy

Women have wombs. Sure. Does it mean they do their job less well? Not so sure. I have worked with as many people who have had career limiting mental health issues than I have known have babies. Some women (hold the phone) never do have babies. So a quick plea to male bosses not to slow down on investing in women’s careers on the off-chance they might have a child. We shouldn’t just be monitoring pay levels but pay progression against clear objectives…and making sure it doesn’t suddenly hit a ceiling when a woman hits 35.

Do the right thing

It is that simple. If you have two people doing the same job to the same standard and you pay them differently (for WHATEVER reason), will you as an employer sleep easily at night? I wouldn’t. Stop looking for what you can get away with and shoulder the responsibility of a leader. If shareholders are happy to drive value through inequality, then push back. And don’t pat yourself on the back too soon: if your business is publishing stats celebrating the fact that the gender pay gap is only 5%, make it 0%. We work in media; we are creative; we can find solutions.

As of next year, companies with over 250 employees will have to make public both mean and median pay gap, by law. How about instead we use the law to make pay gaps illegal? There, job done.

Debbie Zaman is founder and MD of Withpr, a technology communications consultancy that is proud to have an entirely female leadership team. She also sits on the advisory board of Diversity In Media & Advertising.

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