Today is the deadline for British businesses to publish gender pay gap data for the first time, exposing the difference between male and female salaries.
Organisations with more than 250 employees have been forced to disclose details across four pay bands and across the overall workforce.
The data collected as a result of the inaugural reporting has not yet been averaged out but according to the last available figures from the ONS, the mean gender pay gap across all industries stands at 17.4%. In retail, it is slightly lower at 16.4%.
Retail league table: Gender pay gap
|Retailer||Median gender pay gap (%)||Mean gender pay gap (%)||Lower quartile (% women)||Lower middle quartile (% women)||Upper middle quartile (% women)||Upper quartile (% women)|
|Fortnum & Mason||0.8||4.3||48||49||47||47|
|House of Fraser||1||18||78||75||79||69|
|Holland & Barrett||2.9||12.8||69.6||71.5||71.9||60.9|
|The Hut Group||6||11||43||42||47||28|
|Pets at Home||9.7||17.9||73||71||68||46|
|Russell & Bromley||11.7||44.2||87.7||87.1||83.9||73.7|
Minding the gap
The gender pay gap should not be confused with equal pay, which is a legal requirement. Equal pay law is intended to ensure that men and women are paid the same for comparative roles.
Gender pay disparity instead captures structural differences, highlighting the proportion of women or men in higher or lower paying roles.
The retail industry is far from the worst offender – that prize goes to the construction industry.
“Retailers with high gender pay gaps employ fewer men in lower pay bands and fewer women in higher pay bands”
But retail is also a long way from leading the pack – in accommodation and food services, women earn just 1% less than men. No sector pays women more than men.
Retail’s gap is heavily influenced by its reliance on shopfloor workers who, because of the flexible working offered by the job and historic employment practices, tend to be women.
Retailers with high gender pay gaps employ fewer men in lower pay bands and fewer women in higher pay bands.
The worst offenders in retail are mainly comprised of fashion retailers. For instance, Phase Eight’s mean pay gap is 64.8% while its median stands at 54.5%.
That was skewed by the company employing just 44 men, in comparison to 1,710 women. Of those 44, 39 work at head office.
Women still dominate the upper quartile but because so few men work in the lower quartiles, the male average is much higher.
The picture is similar at Cath Kidston, which has a 39% mean pay gap and a 24% median gap.
New Look reported a 30% mean and 20.9% median gap, with women dominating every level but men more heavily skewed towards the top quartile.
The department stores published similar gaps – Debenhams revealed a mean difference of 19.9% and a median of 0.3%. House of Fraser reported an 18% mean and a 1% median difference and John Lewis confirmed a 13.9% mean and a 7.8% median. Marks & Spencer disclosed a 12.3% mean and 3.3% median gap.
Grocery revealed similar dynamics at play, with Sainsbury’s reporting a 14.8% mean and 5.1% median gap. Tesco 11.5% and 8.4% respectively, Asda 12.5% and 8.9%, and Morrsions 14.3% and 11.8%.
“The gender pay gap helps to understand female talent pipelines”
Simmone Haywood, M&S
One notable exception is Majestic, which has a 2.5% mean difference and a 2.3% median difference in favour of women.
The retailer employs many more men than women in each pay band, but fewer women are employed in the lower bands.
The Government was applauded when it first revealed it would force businesses to publish their gender pay gap data last year.
But fast-forward 12 months and a number of issues have arisen, while the value of reporting has been called into question.
The Institute of Economic Affairs has been one of the more vocal opponents of the efficacy and accuracy of pay gap reporting.
News editor at the centre-right think tank Kate Andrews said on Monday that the data failed “to provide any meaningful insight” and that “the requirement to measure pay gaps across the entire organisation (rather than between comparable roles) as well as the omission of necessary data, renders the majority of findings meaningless”.
She said that the data would be more meaningful if age, experience and job level were taken into account and that because part-time and full-time workers are not distinguished between, the data is skewed further.
Clearly, the data is not without its problems. But most observers believe that it still holds value.
“It’s valuable in that it raises an issue that a lot of organisations have,” says M&S head of talent Simmone Haywood. “The gender pay gap helps to understand female talent pipelines.”
Majestic’s transformation director Sarah Appleton echoes Haywood’s comments on talent pipelines.
“We have a high volume of low level roles in store and in the warehouse,” she says. “Those roles are physically demanding and we find it difficult to recruit women into them. That is how our gender pay gap [in women’s favour] has come about.
“One interesting thing about that is when we look at recruitment we are only getting 25% female applicants for lots of roles so it gives us something to focus on.”
“While opening up a dialogue is valuable, simply publishing data does not drive change”
Majestic is currently making changes to its maternity policy as a direct result of reporting on its gender pay gap in an effort to attract and retain more women at all levels.
Appleton believes that while gender pay gap reporting provides “a useful data point”, it is not “the whole answer”.
“You can’t use it in isolation but it is a great way to open a conversation about diversity and inclusion,” she says. “The more data points you have, the more round a view you can get and the broader a conversation you can have.”
While opening up a dialogue is valuable, simply publishing data does not drive change.
PwC research shows that myriad factors including a lack of affordable childcare and, somewhat ironically, a dearth of women in decision-making roles contribute to a higher gender pay gap.
“Despite the push for organisations to publish their gender pay gaps in the UK, progress will be slow until businesses start addressing the complex underlying reasons,” says PwC head of people Laura Hinton.
“Merely reporting numbers without concrete action won’t change anything.”
While reporting data won’t change an established dynamic overnight, acknowledging a problem is the first step to changing it.
Retail Week’s Be Inspired campaign aims to help develop the next generation of female retail leaders by providing women in the sector with access to inspirational role models and educational content across digital, print and live events.
The annual Be Inspired conference will take place on June 27 this year, with 50 of the biggest names in retail speaking on whether women can really have it all, why you don’t have to be alpha to succeed and how to overcome unconscious bias.
For more information, visit BeInspired.Retail-Week.com