Over the past few months, you might have noticed that companies all over the UK have started talking a lot more about their gender pay gap. That’s because there’s been important new legislation passed demanding that employers with over 250 employees publish their pay gap statistics by April 2018.
Time’s finally up – and as you might expect, press reports have largely picked up on the somewhat sobering truth that women still generally earn less than men, regardless of industry. No major surprises there.
But far more interesting than the results themselves are the conversations they’re provoking about our entrenched attitudes towards women in the workplace. The disparity is disappointing, but it isn’t shocking – and it actually gives us an opportunity to examine not just the fact that the inequality exists – but why.
At Starling, we’re not yet legally required to reveal our numbers – but we’ve decided to anyway. As one of very few women in senior leadership within banking (and now one of very few female CEOs working in the male-dominated worlds of both finance and tech) I’m personally very invested in this subject – and because I’ve experienced firsthand the dispiriting and obstructive effects of inequality, I’m in the unique position of being able to examine it from the inside.
Being a woman in finance or tech is tough. We generally have to work twice as hard, for twice as long, to get half as far as men – and so it’s very important to me that Starling is as transparent as possible about how we currently stack up on issues like gender pay. Organisations should be forced to take accountability for the gendered prejudice that exists within their culture; it’s the only real way we can start to change our industry and leave a better legacy for a whole new generation of women to progress and prosper.
The gender pay gap isn’t equal pay
I think it’s important to highlight that the gender pay gap is not the same issue as equal pay. Paying a woman less for the same work as a man is thankfully now illegal, and something you’ll rarely come across nowadays. The issue here is really more about the type of jobs men go for – especially in tech and finance – and the fact that they’re generally a lot more financially rewarded than the jobs pursued by women – which results in that inarguable gap in pay.
A lot of Fintech companies argue that their pay gap exists because a high percentage of their workforce are tech and finance specialists – and that those jobs are just largely applied for (and then filled by) men. That’s about the measure of it – but the solution isn’t as simple as just ‘encouraging’ more women to enter these professions. Instead, we have to try and understand why women aren’t choosing to pursue them in the first place, and why they’re not selected for them when they do apply.
A major part of the problem is the deeply-entrenched ideas we have about the kind of jobs ‘men do’ and the kind of jobs that ‘women do’, which have been defined and shaped by years of invisible social conditioning. We’re now at the point where some people consider software engineering to be a traditionally ‘male’ pursuit, or talk openly about tech being ‘a man’s world’. And it’s not just men. I’ve heard plenty of woman talk about technology in this way too.