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Mind the Gap

New research from executive search and interim management agency, Norrie Johnston Recruitment (NJR), throws further light on the gender pay gap debate.

Graham Oates, the company’s CEO, talks us through the figures and what they mean for female executives and their employers.

When gender pay gap statistics were made public for the first time it was revealed that almost eight in 10 companies and public-sector bodies pay men more than women. 

Some said the figures were a crude measure and others highlighted reasons for their particular disparity; Ryanair argued that the immense pay gap in its business is because it employs 546 male pilots and only eight female pilots.  However, whatever the reasons, the figures undeniably highlight that not enough women are occupying senior roles.

As CBI director General, Carolyn Fairbairn said, knowing the average pay difference between men and women will help companies develop more inclusive workplaces and support the rise of more women into senior roles.

But is the challenge simply to help more women reach the top of the career ladder? Is everything fine for the women who have got there?  Our research suggests not.  

We analysed the CVs of over 6,000 high-level candidates; men and women looking for senior if not board-level roles. We looked at their average salary expectations across 13 different roles.

Comparing senior-level men and women in like for like roles we found that overall the women expected to be paid less than men.  For instance, the average salary expected by male non-exec directors (NEDs) was £106,935 whereas women going for the same NED roles expected £83,125.  That’s a 25% difference.  When it came to customer service heads the difference was still 22%. For FDs it was 14.5%, and for chief operations officers and sales/business development director roles the differences were 13% and 12% respectively.  Things were less marked for MDs/CEOs 2.5%, senior change managers 7.5%, facilities managers 3% and marketing directors 3%, but there was a gap all the same, and every time it was in favour of men. 

There were a few roles where there was almost parity, namely HR, supply chain management and IT programme management.  Furthermore, with Chief Technology Officer (CTO) roles the difference was tipped in favour of women, with an 8% differential, but these were the rare exceptions to the rule.

Similarly, when we looked at the day rates of senior interim managers there was still generally a gap between what the male and female candidates expected to be paid.  It wasn’t as significant, but for eight of the 13 senior interim roles we studied it was clearly there.  For instance, there was a 15% difference between the day rates of male and female interim non-exec directors in favour of men, and double-digit differences for interim senior change manager and customer service roles.   Again, IT appeared to be the one area where the tables turned, with female interim CTOs and IT project/programme managers expecting a significantly higher day rate than their male counterparts.

Now let’s be clear here.  We’re not saying that companies coming to us with senior roles to fill expect to pay women less than men.  The differences we’ve recorded are the salary expectations set by the candidates themselves.  However, it’s fair to assume that these candidates are basing their salary expectations on their most recent roles. If that’s the case, then what appears to be happening is that women somehow find themselves on a career trajectory which culminates in them being on a pay scale which is out of kilter by the time they reach a senior level.

To head off this problem, some have suggested women act earlier on in their careers.  For instance, Dr Sue Black, the technology evangelist and digital skills expert who in 2016 was awarded an OBE for services to technology, thinks that to avoid finding themselves in this position later in their careers, young women need to aim high from day one. She suggests that for some jobs – typically experienced-hire positions a woman will be asked about her salary expectations. In such situations women should find out what a typical salary would be for the job in question, then ask for 10% more. She says: “This is particularly important when you’re starting your career – the difference of a few thousand pounds when you’re 21 can turn into a £20k, £30k or £40k difference later in your career.”

Many successful women also recommend using mentors, ideally someone who has already made it. They argue that being able to draw on their 20:20 hindsight can only help with confidence, early career decision-making, work-life balance issues, pay negotiations and so forth. 

While these are good pieces of advice, we also play our part. As an interface between organisations and the talent they employ, we work hard to ensure that all our candidates are fairly evaluated for all roles and are properly remunerated based on the value that they can bring, irrespective of gender. It’s something we’ve always done and will continue to do.

NJR’s analysis of salary data is contained in its report “Women, Pay & Progress – closing the gender pay gap” which is free to download here

To find out more visit: www.NorrieJohnstonRecruitment.com