How to improve your gender pay gap

improve gender pay gap

Gender Pay Gap reporting regulations require all organisations with more than 250 staff to publish data. This was first required last year on the 5th April 2017, with data having to be published for that date no later than 4th April 2018 (the dates for the public sector were slightly different). So now we are heading into round two, we wanted to give you a brief overview of how improve your gender pay gap.

April 2019 will be the second year of reporting, when ideally there should be an improvement in the figures that you reported last year! If the thought of this fills you with dread, don’t worry, you still have four months before the next reporting deadline, and in this Blast we have provided you with some ideas to consider implementing to improve your gender pay gap figures in preparation for the next reporting deadline in April.

Any Exclusions?

But first things first … are you safe because you don’t employ 250 staff?

Ah! If only! MPs have already recommended this requirement be extended out to those employing 50+ staff from 2020. It’s not law yet, but don’t be surprised if something changes in the near future.

So, if you have 250+ staff, what can you do to improve your gender pay gap?

If you are an organisation who has to report, then you do have an option to write a narrative alongside the data which can explain the results and detail the actions that you are taking/have taken to improve your results. So even if the results haven’t significantly improved in your April 2019 data then at the very least you can use the narrative to demonstrate that you are taking actions.

The very first step, before implementing any practical actions, is to ensure that you have fully analysed and understand your own data. Typically, the gender pay data has shown that much of the gender pay gap is due to an under representation of women in senior jobs – is this the case in your organisation?

Do you understand exactly where the segregation between men and women is occurring, at what level, in what roles and what the pay differentials are? Have you undertaken a fair pay review to ensure that individuals who are undertaking jobs of the same nature and status are being paid in line with each other? Also, have you identified where talent is leaking out of your organisation (and why it is leaking out) meaning that you simply don’t have women to promote into the more senior roles?

Once you have done this, you should have a good understanding of exactly where the problems are, and therefore where targeted action is necessary to resolve the problem. When analysing your data, be careful though to look at root cause or underlying issues, rather than just the surface level issues.

Obviously, the practical actions will vary between organisations, but we have noted below some of the most common solutions that are likely to result in real change:

Training/Awareness Building

Consider raising awareness through diversity, unconscious bias or gender intelligence workshops or training courses, alongside targeted training, or sponsoring of women to increase their chances of promotion. Research has shown that women tend to benefit far more from having a sponsor who takes an active role seeking out promotion opportunities and championing women, rather than a mentor or buddy.

Flexible Working

There is plenty of evidence that managers generally prefer employees who work longer hours and adopt the 24/7 approach, and that people who want or need more flexibility will often receive lower bonuses and fewer promotions as a result.

But if you value your women, consider making flexible working the default option, think about how to change your approach so that flexible working is built into the culture of an organisation. Consider how you can visually demonstrate this – for example could more senior jobs be made available on a flexible basis? Do you have quality part time work opportunities? What language is used around flexibility in company communications?

Consider incentivising or even, if you are feeling very bold, making it compulsory for men to take a reasonable period of paternity leave to try and level the playing field. Do your staff have a genuine stigma free career break? If not, how can you ensure that this happens consistently? If you asked them, do staff and managers view flexible working as an occasional option for the lucky few or something that most people have access to as and when it suits them? Do those whose finish times are an hour or two earlier than colleagues, feel they have to slink out or apologise for going early or do all their colleagues recognise that they are probably just heading off to their next job (e.g. childcare).

Now let’s take an in depth look at…


  • There is evidence that making diversity targets compulsory in recruitment can be effective. Consider whether you might want to implement a strategy of enforcing balanced recruitment shortlists and hiring panels.
  • Blind evaluation and assessment have also been shown to be effective. Consider implementing blind selection (taking all personal details out of the CV/application form) and expanding this to make work tests, and psychometric tests subject to blind evaluation.
  • Have you undertaken a review of the recruitment processes to ensure that hiring, appraising and promotion processes are as objective as possible?
  • In the same vein have you rolled out unconscious bias training and/or gender intelligence training to those managers and HR staff involved in recruiting so they are more aware of where bias might impact?
  • Evidence shows that structured one to one interviews could be replaced by more open ended panel interviews and potential should have a far greater emphasis than it typically does.


  • Consider the culture in your organisation, are employees likely to fall prey to performance support bias, where some people are given more opportunities than others and therefore build up a greater portfolio of experience, so making them more likely to be promoted?
  • Consider the culture in your organisation and whether you truly have buy in from the top to encourage the development and progression of women in the workplace. If there is no buy in from the top you will find it very hard to bridge your gender pay gap.

Take Action

Here are some practical ideas to help you address your gender pay gap (and even if you aren’t doing anything in time to make a big difference before April 2019 – at least you will have something to include in your report relating to what you are doing to overcome the gap.)

  • Consider appointing a diversity committee or perhaps a Diversity Manager who will take responsibility for analysing the data, review decisions and has the gravitas/clout to implement new diversity initiatives.
  • Following your analysis, formally agree at Board Level what your priorities are in terms of tackling this issue and what your internal measurements of success will be
  • Ensure that your reward practices (e.g. pay, promotions, benefits) are really transparent and that they do not unfairly or inadvertently impact one gender or group of staff. If necessary, use an external compensation and benefits consultant to give you an impartial view
  • Offer staff, managers and directors unconscious bias and gender intelligence training. Raising awareness and creating opportunities to discuss what is not working fairly is a great way to initiate change and get everyone involved for maximum benefit.
  • If you have staff representatives in place then use them to help you spread the word about what you are doing to address the gender pay gap, ask them to identify opportunities, consult with staff about where the challenges are etc.
  • Think about Bias Breaks (i.e. specific actions that can tackle one identified bias) with a view to identifying one or more bias breaks that can be used in your organisation.
  • Communicate through your intranet, notice boards, newsletters etc so that awareness and knowledge about what you are seeking to achieve is as widely discussed as possible. The more people involved across the organisation, the more successful you are likely to be in achieving your goals.
  • Don’t just sneak your annual results onto your website as the law requires – be up front about the results and talk about next steps with your staff.

And even if you don’t need to report – it’s still worth taking appropriate actions so you ensure you are positioning yourself as a sought after employer, capable of attracting the best talent.

For HR audits, training, unconscious bias and gender intelligence workshops please do get in touch as we would be delighted to support you in our pragmatic and common sense way. Equally if you identify just one or two individuals who are putting walls up, then why not talk to us about our one to one coaching offering to see if we can find a way through?

If you have found this article useful, then you can sign up to receive free fortnightly updates, like this one, on HR, employment and business related topics.

to top button