Why are there so few women in senior roles and why should those who are there, be paid less? As companies across the UK report on their Gender Pay Gap, it is becoming clear that a common theme for pay grade discrepancy is the lack of women in senior roles, and that isn’t good for business. Women in Property says that companies need to look at the story behind the figures if the situation is to change.
Jo Williams, National Chairman of Women in Property and Partner at Leeds-based Sanderson Weatherall LLP, said, “Unfortunately the property and construction industry is a striking example of gender imbalance, particularly at a senior level so no one should be surprised that the industry’s GPG figures are poor. The issues are deep-rooted and change is long overdue. The challenge is how they deal with them.”
Women in Property has informally canvassed opinion from members across its branches, to get an idea not only of who is reporting but how they might be addressing the problem. It appears to be a mixed bag. Many have reported but haven’t yet communicated with their teams, as if waiting to see what others do. Some are below the 250+ employee threshold, so are under no statutory obligation to report but recognise the imbalance and are looking to use it positively as a recruitment tool.
One firm, also below the threshold, has identified that the geographical spread of the company shows some difference in salaries of both men and women which cannot be captured under the current reporting regime. This geographical difference is amplified by their small size. Other smaller companies with a UK coverage are likely to have a similar problem suggesting that the statistics are disproportionately swayed among SMEs. Again, however, it is at senior level where the biggest gap emerges.
Women in Property is very clear what needs to be done. Hannah Richardson, of Spawforths and Yorkshire branch chairman of Women in Property said, “For many years we have been championing the need to encourage more girls and young women into the property and construction industry and looking at what causes so many women to leave at mid-career, creating a void in the senior tiers. We know that one of the most popular work benefits for women and men, is flexible working. Lack of flexibility means many simply don’t return. In fact, it is flexibility that brings work-life balance, whether for family, lifestyle or carer reasons, that is so critical for all genders.
“A clear career path, training and mentoring are also really important. Retention of women is dependent on properly rewarding them throughout their career. An honest, trusting work environment will reap dividends for both parties, in terms of loyalty, staff retention and the bottom line.”
Last year, in expanded research*, McKinsey reported that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on their executive teams were 21% more likely to experience above average profitability than those in the fourth quartile. In 2016 they reported** that bridging the gender gap in Europe could add USD 2 trillion to the GDP by 2025 and contribute to greater gender equality in leadership positions. Hence encouraging a strong pipeline of women through business is good for retention and good for business.
The GPG deadline has brought a lot of negatives under the spotlight. However, in so doing there is a tremendous opportunity for companies to focus on how they can make adjustments to their work culture.
“We recognise these things can take time but we can see a changing mind-set out there,” concluded Jo Williams. “In recent years there have been some really positive initiatives that have driven awareness to diversity issues. In forcing the hand of the larger companies, we are all rethinking how we should do business in future.”
*Delivering through diversity 2017
**Women Matter 2016