DESPITE industry’s focus on diversity and gender equality in Britain, the proportion of women in the highest-paying jobs has dropped, according to the latest figures.
Analysis by payroll data company Spktral shows that for the 2020/21 reporting cycle, the proportion of women in the lowest-pay quarter across financial services and insurance companies rose to 59.3 per cent, an increase of 1.3 percentage points.
The proportion of women in the top quartile of pay fell to 29.2 per cent, a fall of 0.5 percentage points. The proportion in the upper-middle quarter also decreased 1.2 percentage points to 39.9 per cent, and women account for a slight majority in the lower-middle quartile at 51.5 per cent, unchanged from the previous year.
Since 2017, employers with more than 250 staff have had to report to the government their gender pay gap — the difference between the average earnings of men and women across the workforce.
The data for the Spktral analysis aggregated the submissions of some 223 firms in the financial services and insurance sector.
Under UK government reporting rules, this year’s latest submissions were due on April 4, but the Equality and Human Rights Commission has extended this to October 5, 2021.
Spktral business development executive Heather Williamson noted that given 453 financial services and insurance firms reported data last year, only just over 50 per cent of companies have submitted their data so far this year.
Williamson said: “For the report due April 4, 2022, organisations should already have everything they need to start preparing their analysis and report, yet some are still looking at last year’s report.”
She argued that while there were increases in the median and mean gender pay gaps in the sector to 25.9 per cent and 28 per cent respectively, as well as the median and median bonus gaps, which hit 43.5 per cent and 54.6 per cent, issues such as representations at senior levels are just as important as the overall gender pay gap.
“Our whole thing at the moment is that we should not be focusing on the pay-gap percentage, boiling a whole organisation down to a single figure, which can be unhelpful. When you consider things like disability and social mobility as well, as more companies start to look at the data, representation is more important than the pay gap. You can do interesting comparisons with the government data, looking at overall representation and comparing that to the top 25 per cent.
“Even with firms that have, say, a 60/40 split of women, you have to ask: why are only 15 per cent of them in the top 25 per cent (of earners). We do see people discounting gender pay-gap reporting but (women) are still not getting into the leadership part of the company. That’s what we’re up against. If we can get more people thinking about representation that’s definitely a new angle’’, Williamson added.
Founder of industry diversity group City Hive, Bev Shah, says that she has heard anecdotal accounts of women in middle-management positions stepping back from their roles during the pandemic.
While there has been great growth in diverse apprenticeship and graduate recruitment schemes in the financial district of London (known as the ‘City’), Shah said not enough attention has been paid to career progression once women join firms.
“Firms are just focusing on entry-level positions. Interns and graduate schemes are all great, but there’s not a lot of action happening in the middle because you can’t grow that pool organically. We are talking about experienced people – there is no magic tree of women to pick from. Firms do not want to focus on what they need to change structurally to keep those people (women) on”, said Shah.
(The writer is our foreign correspondent based in the UK)