Gender pay gap narrows amid ongoing Covid uncertainty 

The marketing gender pay gap may be getting smaller, but the impact of the pandemic on women’s careers could be felt for years to come.

Career & Salary Survey 2022Almost two years into the pandemic and business is picking up the pieces from a period of turmoil characterised by uncertainty, redundancy and furlough.

Gender pay gap reporting was suspended in 2020 to help companies cope with the Covid trauma, sparking real fear the pandemic would roll back years of progress towards gender parity in the workplace.

While it is too soon to tell what the lasting impact of the crisis will be on the female workforce, within marketing at least the gender pay gap appears to be narrowing.

On average female marketers working full time are paid 12.6% less than their male counterparts, according to the 2022 Marketing Week Career and Salary Survey. This figure is down from 23% for all full-time workers in 2021 and 28% in 2020.

The exclusive survey of 4,463 marketers – 59.2% of whom identify as female – finds a gender pay gap of 6.2% at executive level, with female marketers earning on average £28,800, compared to their male peers at £30,700.

The pay gap swings in the opposite direction at senior executive level to -17.2%, with female marketers earning £32,700 compared to their male counterparts at £27,900. For junior managers the gender pay gap is calculated at -4.1%, based on female marketers earning on average £37,900 annually versus male marketers at £36,400.

Marketing must get better at supporting women’s careers

Climbing the career ladder to the level of manager/team manager, the gender pay gap narrows to -1.1% for full-time workers, with women on average earning £47,300 versus their male peers at £46,800.

At marketing director/vice-president level, the gender pay gap swings back in favour of men. Female marketing directors or vice-presidents earn on average £86,900, versus their male peers at £104,500, equating to a gender pay gap of 16.8%.

The analysis finds a gender pay gap of 4.7% for the role of chief marketing officer, with female CMOs earning on average £112,400 compared to their male counterparts on £118,000.

According to the analysis, the best paid industry for female marketers on average is the financial sector (£59,062), while the worst paid is the charity/not-for-profit sector (£40,406). On average, male marketers were found to be best paid in the automotive sector (£77,592) and take home the smallest wage in FMCG (£46,775).

Career & Salary Survey 2022Looking on a national level, Office of National Statistics (ONS) figures published in October put the gender pay gap for all full-time employees at 7.9% as of April 2021, up from 7% in April 2020 but down on 9% in April 2019.

The ONS gender pay gap is calculated as the difference between average hourly earnings (excluding overtime) of men and women as a proportion of men’s average hourly earnings (excluding overtime). The figure is the measure across all jobs in the UK, rather than the difference in pay between men and women for doing the same job.

Drilling down into the ONS statistics, the median gender pay gap for full-time marketing and sales directors is 6.9%, with a mean pay gap figure of 5.1%. For full-time ‘sales, marketing and related associate professionals’ the figure calculated is a median gender pay gap of 14.3% and a mean pay gap of 16%.

The government statistics also reveal a median gender pay gap for full-time ‘marketing associate professionals’ of 2.3% and a mean pay gap of 17.6%.

Nationwide, the ONS data reveals more women than men were furloughed with a loss of pay in 2021 across all roles, a reverse of the situation in 2020.

Question of data

The challenges faced in collecting pay gap data under lockdown in 2020, combined with falling response rates since the onset of the pandemic, has encouraged the ONS to warn its estimates for 2020 and 2021 are subject to a greater degree of uncertainty.

Gender pay gap reporting was suspended in March 2020 for the year 2019/2020 as the crisis hit. Then for the 2020/2021 period, companies were given a six-month extension until 5 October to report their pay gap before the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) would take legal action.

Speaking at the time, EHRC chair Kishwer Falkner said the commission had delayed its legal enforcement to strike a balance between “supporting businesses and enforcing their obligations”, adding that firms which fail to report the gender pay gap “risk letting down the women who work for them and damaging their reputation”.

For the past two years, gender equality charity The Fawcett Society has challenged the veracity of the government figures, arguing the pandemic has had a “disproportionate impact on women” and driven persistent inequality in the labour market. The Fawcett Society calculated its Equal Pay Day in 2021 as 18 November, the day in the year where women effectively – on average – stop earning relative to men because of the gender pay gap.

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The charity is calling on the government to require mandatory action plans from employers to tackle the gender pay gap in their workforce, while also making flexible working available to everyone.

WACL, the body for women in advertising and communications leadership, ran its own campaign pushing for the reinstatement of gender pay gap reporting last year.

The group’s latest campaign ‘Flexible First’ cites flexible working as one of the key tools for closing the gender pay gap, a topical issue as marketers negotiate the reality of flexible working amid the return to offices. WACL claims offering flexible working in all forms allows not only more women into the workforce, but creates the conditions for them to stay in work longer.

The Career and Salary Survey statistics bear out demand for flexibility among female marketers. Some 87.4% of women responding to the survey say hybrid working is either very important or important to them in their role.

Finding flexible working patterns that suit a diverse workforce remains critical in 2022, as pressure mounts on brands to close the gender pay gap at all levels. An acceptance that people want to work in different ways post-Covid will be crucial if companies are to avoid so-called ‘proximity bias’, whereby employees working in the office are favoured with opportunities and access to leaders compared to those working remotely.

This issue reflects the theme of next month’s International Women’s Day (8 March) – #BreakTheBias – which will incorporate bias in the workplace, identified as a key issue by the United Nations.

*The average salaries for the Career and Salary Survey are calculated from full-time (35+ hours a week) respondents (88.2% of the total sample) providing their basic annual salary, excluding any additional benefits.

Click here to read the full analysis of marketing wages cut by gender and seniority