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Alex Waite

The gender pay gap figure will not tell the whole story

We are now approaching the second year of publishing Gender Pay Gap (GPG) reports, and there will be a clear distinction between companies who own their narrative by telling a clear and consistent story, and those who let their data do the talking.

Workplace diversity and equality is a key issue for companies to tackle, and one that can’t be avoided. As highlighted in Larry Fink’s annual CEO letter, there is a clear drive for a purpose beyond profit. Put simply this means that a business should not only run profitably, but also make sure customers, suppliers, community and importantly employees benefit from the activities of the corporation.

Data is only part of the journey, and numbers alone are not sufficient. With stakeholders becoming more empowered, investors looking beyond just financials, and the best talent scrutinising companies, reputations can be jeopardised easily. Organisations should not see reporting on their GPG as a compliance exercise, but rather as an opportunity to tell a positive story to stop these issues manifesting. A good example of this is our client Kier, who articulate their Gender Pay Gap, and clearly explain why the gap exists. They also describe initiatives they are taking to close it.

The lead that companies need to take is one of being open and transparent to their stakeholders on what’s being done and what the plan is to address the issue in the long term. As our Lead Reporting consultant Anne Kirkeby points out in an interview with CorpComms Magazine

A good narrative will include the sorts of initiatives the company is doing, and they will be things that the business can be held to account over. The more specific they are, the better. Companies need to move beyond just a statement of intent. They need to be specific about what they have done and how all the way up the company.” 

An example of this is our client EasyJet who make a commitment to equal pay. In their concise report, reference is made to an initiative to increase the number of female pilots which is backed up by a clear target.

To take this a step further and be seen as a progressive place to work, companies need to extend their story beyond reporting building relationships with external and internal audiences. Inevitably, employees will be scrutinising the GPG report, and it may raise questions internally. If the opportunity is taken to proactively address these questions, the story can be one of positive change and progress. By planning touch points for employees, you can provide clear and simple explanations on what is being measured, and why differences exist. The key is using engaging content such as infographics, film and animations and leveraging them through platforms such as employee apps or intranets. Content can also be published on social media channels if followed by employees.

With the proliferation of information there needs to be a consistent, clear message by companies externally. Internally, all stakeholders should help to own the conversation with PR, marketing, communications and HR all working with the C-suite and Board. Alongside the GPG report, the company website, Q&A documents and press releases should all be consistent. Key stakeholders like investors and potential talent will be looking to find out how companies are reporting their GPG. If you don’t want to clearly articulate your GPG, it could be a clear sign that you aren’t owning the conversation and audiences will make their own assumptions.

Not all conversations will be easy, but by telling a clear story to all stakeholders that is importantly authentic, you can create a positive story that motivates, attracts and creates a more rewarding working environment.

To discuss how to communicate your Gender Pay Gap story, externally and internally, or for best practice advice on how to report, please get in touch with Black Sun.