A Gender Pay Gap Horror Story! Could Unconscious Bias Training Kick Start A Change?

It’s A Gender Pay Gap Horror Story! Could Unconscious Bias training kick start a change?

So with the gender pay gap horror story unfolding, there are no guesses allowed in respect of where good (competent) women will be heading this year! Invariably in the opposite direction of those companies that have fallen far short of expectations, compounding the problems that already exist in those companies as it will take a brave woman to want to work with a business that culturally does not appear to be that welcoming to women.

The government has been forcing organisations to report on the difference between men and women’s average earnings across each organisation. And after a year long excruciating wait we now find out who the worst offenders are. The stand outs for me have been Ryannair with a 67% gap between men and women and HSBC with 59%. But by and large most football clubs, banks, construction businesses and airlines are all looking pretty miserable in the naughty corner.

In contrast there have been some exemplary performers such as Unilever and Ocado (both paying women more than men on average) but perfection is achieved at the British Museum where there is no gap at all! Congratulations have to go to them! Oh and let’s just hope none of the better performers now have staff getting whiplash as they pivot on the spot saying  “Woah! How on earth did HR manage to come up with that result?”

Worth a special mention though is Gerry’s Offshore International Corp as the UK’s worst offender to date with just a few reporting hours left. At 139% their pay gap is truly horrifying. Just remember that when you next drink at Costa’s as Gerry’s is the franchisee for 12 Costa Coffee shops in the UK or when you next fly with Virgin or KLM as Gerry’s is a massive travel, air cargo and aviation business.

But there is no point in me writing if I can’t relate this reporting to the real world we all live and work in. I do run an HR business after all!  I suppose what depresses me most is that the pace of change in relation to diversity is simply too slow. Over the last 30 years of my career it’s been like watching cheese mature in the Wookey Hole Caves. Yes, you can actually spend your day watching cheese maturing… once they fix their web cam…now there’s a thought for retirement!

And now we see the ‘slow mo’ car crash that is gender pay reporting. So what solutions are needed in house to address some of these issues so that this time next year we can see real progress in getting more women into (and remaining in) appropriately paid senior roles – which I suspect is the root cause of so many of the hideous figures reported.

But if you’re not convinced about the ‘slo mo’ part of what I’ve said, if you need a little light relief from all things pay gap or if you need something a bit visual to focus the minds of your directors or HR team, take a look at this. It’s a watermelon explosion. I don’t know if you have ever watched the slo mo guys but what they do with this watermelon is like so many of the diversity training sheep dips I’ve observed over the years…

…in theory just one more rubber band should just hold it all together but one day, just one day, it might all get very messy indeed! Perhaps that day has now come to some of you? We don’t need rubber bands or sticking plasters in response to tribunal claims, grievances, resignations and complaints. What we are in desperate need of is genuine, thought through, co-ordinated action, or you too will have to deal with the mess when it all explodes. And if you’re not sure about this, why not do a tally of how much time and money has gone into diversity training and dealing with complaints and litigation over the last 2 decades and how much progress you have made with genuine diversity and inclusion as a result?  A few businesses are making progress but they are far outnumbered by those that are not making any real progress at all.

In the past 4+ years I have delivered many, many sessions on unconscious bias, but few individuals or organisations seem ready to really get to grips with the knowledge and learning from the research and training sessions. We’re tinkering around the edges and tiptoeing through the issues, with those who like the current status quo seemingly having more sway about what steps we take next, than those who are disengaged and desperate for change.

Why are so many organisations still gripped by a desire to deny, blame or ignore? It’s not exactly conducive to making genuine progress. Laziness, arrogance, stupidity, incompetence, or lack of vision? I’ll let you take your pick!

And if senior teams and senior people don’t get the importance and urgency of tackling diversity and inclusion then any training is absolutely wasted. You might as well flush your money down the drain. And while you’re at it continue to watch qualified, experienced women walk out the door, gay staff leaving due to bullying and exclusion, older staff switching off due to being side lined and ethnic minorities having to battle to be heard and respected.

But where do you start? What do you tackle first?

How about starting by watching this next slow mo clip. This is how so many women, ethnic minorities, employees with disabilities etc feel in organisations that block and crush the very life out of them until one day they manage to escape. Oh yes, when a woman says I want to spend more time with my family by and large what she’s actually saying is that she is sick and tired of battling your culture, but she doesn’t want to have a fight with you about it.

I recommend you watch the slo mo clip in silence and as the 8 minutes passes take time to consider who in your business might be feeling trapped, suffocated, unable to act and what or who is the cause of that. 8 minutes of silent contemplation can be pretty powerful.

Then why not consider booking me or another provider to deliver some unconscious bias workshops in your organisation and facilitate some sessions to identify the barriers, the challenges and the opportunities and first steps. I’ve even got some e learning to offer as a first step for those of you who want to get people thinking before you launch into discussion. It really is time to start to be serious about bias and barriers and a no nonsense, straight talking trainer may be just what you need!

Its time to take action. Enough posturing. Enough nonsense. Enough tiptoeing around the issue. Time is well and truly up!


Looking for some ideas on addressing a gender pay gap, why not take a look at the 10.5 top tips on www.DocsWizard.co.uk


I’d love to hear your thoughts so please do share!

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