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Addressing the gender pay gap is long overdue, so it’s time to stop talking and start acting says agency founder Jo Carr
thinking
7th December 2023

Addressing the gender pay gap is long overdue, so it’s time to stop talking and start acting says agency founder Jo Carr

Another year, another set of firms reporting their gender pay gaps. And another set of predictably depressing articles around just how little has changed – triggered by the fact that little has shifted.

I can’t have been the only one last week whose heart sank when The Guardian revealed the median* pay gap remains stubbornly wide at 9.4 per cent – the same level as it was in 2018, when employers with more than 250 staff were first required to publish the information.

Six years on and the needle has barely moved.

That’s also true in our Industry. While few PR firms have to report by law on their pay gap, those that did have seen only minor gains.

Let’s be clear, though: the pay gap isn’t about whether men and women are getting equal pay for equal work (parity has been enshrined by law for 50 years). It’s about how many women there are in an organisation, what roles they hold and, most importantly, whether they are progressing up the ranks.

And that’s at the heart of the problem: pay transparency only tells us one part of the story.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a crucial component. It’s easier to affect change when you measure the data, so the very act of reporting is to be applauded, especially if it’s voluntary (and is also why we need to urgently push for mandatory ethnicity pay reporting too).

But we need to go further than that.

Once you have the data, you need a plan. The single most important question we need to ask ourselves is: “How do we dismantle the barriers stopping women in our industry from progressing?”

Men and women earn roughly similar salaries early in their PR careers – actually, a lack of men in junior roles means the pay gap is often in a woman’s favour starting out.

Our industry has no trouble attracting talented women – our dilemma has always been how do we help them rise.

It’s why progressive agencies and teams invest heavily in better parental leave policies, more flexible working and inclusive cultures. It’s also why we need to tackle head-on pregnancy discrimination, health inequalities, racism, ageism and the unequal burden of “life admin” that can often upend women’s careers.

But it’s not just the industry as a whole that needs to embrace change. We also need to see a change in individual mindsets. We need to get to a place where it’s just as acceptable for women to “network” and belong to Clubs as it is for men; where women feel comfortable demanding coaches or mentors and where women help create and nurture the careers of other women – because quite simply, why wouldn’t you?

As Madeleine Albright famously said: “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”

So, let’s be more transparent about pay; let’s routinely publish our salary bands but, most importantly, let’s celebrate female CEOs who, by voicing the struggles they face, help normalise the lived experience of every woman. And let’s pay it forward to the next generation of women so they can progress faster.

*According to Imperial College London, the median pay gap is the “difference between the midpoints in the ranges of hourly earnings of men and women. It takes all salaries in the sample, lines them up in order from lowest to highest, and picks the middle salary. The mean gender pay gap is the difference between the average hourly earnings of men and women.”

By Jo Carr, founder and Chief Client Officer at Hope&Glory. This article first appeared on PR Week

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