It is time to wipe out marketing’s gender pay gap

The marketing industry needs to make far more progress in tackling the gender pay gap if it wants to attract the brightest and best to the sector.

marketing gender pay gapSurprise, surprise the Marketing Week Career and Salary Survey has once again revealed the very slow progress being made in our industry to reduce the gender pay gap.

To say I am disappointed is an understatement. I am genuinely beginning to get bored by the glacial pace of progress. I am bored by people wringing their hands and telling me there is little to be done, progress will be slow, these things take time. It just isn’t true. It doesn’t have to be like that. There are things we can all do to close the gap.

But before we get to what they are, a quick word on why it should matter to you as much as it does to me. Because gender equality matters, because paying fairly matters.

Because organisations that don’t value women in the workplace will lose the battle for talent; not just women but other under-represented groups, who will be lured by those businesses that do. Because diverse businesses are stronger, more successful businesses.

Marketing’s gender pay gap revealed

So what can be done to eliminate the gap? First, check that the gender pay gap in your company is not the result of men and women doing the same job being paid differently. This is pay discrimination. It is illegal. Stop it.

Second, understand the gap in your business and check that there is an actual plan to eliminate it. It is not enough to hope it will get better over time – it won’t, not in my lifetime or that of my step-daughter.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want the next generation to have to fight this battle – it is going to be hard enough for them to pay for homes of their own, protect the environment and resolve Brexit.

The great thing about gender equality is that it doesn’t mean that men have to lose for women to gain. The things that are good for women – flexible working, fair pay, salary transparency – are also good for men.

You need to have a robust plan that has been agreed at the highest levels and has specific deadlines attached. It should look at recruitment, retention and reward with a focus on getting more women in the organisation at all levels, especially the most senior, and paying them at the same rate as their male counterparts.

It doesn’t mean you have to sack a load of men (something which I was recently accused of advocating) but it does mean actively seeking to fill vacancies with women. It is not as if there are not loads of brilliant, talented women out there – if you don’t know any or want to know more, please get in touch with me.

I would also encourage greater pay transparency within your business. I know we are British and find talking about money awkward and embarrassing, but it is time we got over it.

I am not asking that individual salaries are published (I may be an idealist but I am not an idiot). However, salary bands could be more transparent – this is what happens in most parts of the public sector, certainly in all the bits I ever worked in, and anarchy did not break out.

On a broader societal level, I don’t think the gender pay gap will be eradicated until working mums stop paying the motherhood penalty. Far too often, when women return to the workforce from maternity leave they do so at roles which are less well paid and/or part-time.

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This, in itself, is galling enough but it also means they get less experience and fewer breaks, so are disadvantaged when it comes to promotions and career opportunities.

We have to stop thinking that a working mum, especially a part-time one, is less productive or valuable than anyone else. We have to make sure they are supported and encouraged to reach their potential. I suspect we will only see real change as men start taking real action to get their work/life balance in order and start taking advantage of flexible working arrangements in significant numbers.

And that might not be so far off: in London at least we are seeing new generations of men entering the workforce who have very different attitudes to working patterns from their fathers and grandfathers.

Because, you see, the great thing about gender equality is that it doesn’t mean that men have to lose for women to gain. The things that are good for women – like flexible working, fair pay and salary transparency – are also good for men.

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