For many years, business publications and research organizations have put out “best employer” lists, ranking organizations based on their employees’ reported job satisfaction, the quantity and quality of their benefits, learning opportunities, and other selling points of the employee experience. These lists offer employers an opportunity to earn some good press and burnish their employer brand, and can be particularly valuable in helping lesser-known companies get their names out there and compete for talent with their higher-profile peers. These lists are typically opt-in: Employers that have good stories to tell submit their information, the top ten or 20 of them get a brand boost, and the rest don’t need to tell anyone they didn’t make the cut.
With more information about organizations’ talent policies becoming publicly available, these lists have evolved to draw on new sources of information and to focus on issues of increasing importance to employees today, like diversity and inclusion or corporate social responsibility. Glassdoor, for example, puts out an annual list of best places to work based on employee ratings and reviews, while Forbes and the activist investment firm Just Capital have begun publishing a “Just 100” ranking of the most socially responsible publicly-traded companies in the US and Bloomberg’s Gender Equality Index highlights companies that are investing in gender equality. The proliferation of best-of lists, however, has led to diminishing returns in their reputational value: Our research at Gartner has found that only 7 percent of candidates say being on one of these lists was an important factor for them in deciding whether to accept an offer from an employer.
The Lists Organizations Don’t Want to Be On
At the same time as the value of a spot on the nice list is waning, a growing trove of publicly available data has led to the emergence of new lists on which employers didn’t ask to be included. Some of these are extensive indices that identify both the best and the worst, like FertilityIQ’s Family Builder Workplace Index, which ranks employers based on the generosity of their fertility benefits. In some rankings, even the best-scoring companies are not great: Equileap recently published a special report on gender equality in the S&P 100, in which the highest grade was a B+. Furthermore, investors, governments, and media outlets have begun to compile what we might call “naughty lists” of companies that are not living up to expectations in terms of fairness, inclusion, transparency, or social responsibility — and you really don’t want to see your organization’s name on one of those.
These naughty lists tend to focus on gender pay equity, executive compensation, handling of sexual harassment claims, and the experiences of diverse employees. One recent, prominent example was a BuzzFeed report in November that pressed leading US tech companies on whether they required employees to resolve sexual harassment claims in private arbitration and called out those that did have such policies or declined to answer (Ironically, the reporters also discovered that BuzzFeed had a mandatory arbitration policy itself). The publication of this report prompted several companies to announce changes in their policies.
In Australia, where the gender pay gap among full-time employees currently stands at a little under 15 percent, the opposition Labor Party wants to push this number downward by requiring large companies to publish their gender pay gaps, as the UK and some other European countries already do. In a statement issued on Sunday, deputy opposition leader Tanya Plibersek and Labor’s employment spokesman Brendan O’Connor noted that Australian women working full-time earn about $27,000 per year less than their male colleagues on average, the Guardian reported:
“We must do better,” it said, adding that a Labor government under Bill Shorten would “act to shine a light on the gender pay gap in Australian companies”. Labor would also change the Fair Work Act to prohibit pay secrecy clauses and require the Workplace Gender Equality Agency to publish a list showing whether large companies had undertaken and reported a gender pay gap audit.
Companies already report their gender pay data to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency but Labor would make it public, the statement said. “People will be able to search a gender pay equity portal to find out a company’s overall pay gap, and the pay gaps for managerial and non-managerial staff.”
The Australian Council of Trade Unions backed the proposal, saying it would improve employees’ bargaining power and prevent employers from retaliating against employees for discussing their pay with each other. Prime Minister Scott Morrison, however, pushed back on the proposal, arguing that it might generate problems in the workplace and not actually help close the pay gap.
“You’d want to be confident you’re not setting up conflict in the workplace,” he said. “I don’t want to set one set of employees against another set of employees.” Morrison also pointed out that the country’s gender pay gap had decreased from 17.2 percent to 14.5 percent under his Liberal Party–National Party coalition government, whereas it had grown the last time Labor was in power. Nonetheless, Morrison said in a press conference that he was “open-minded” about the proposal.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is arguably the world’s foremost example of women’s empowerment: an accomplished scientist turned national leader and one of the most powerful people (not just women) in the world. Notwithstanding Merkel’s achievements and those of other women leaders in German politics, the country lags behind its European peers in closing the gender pay gap. Germany’s pay gap stands at 21.5 percent, according to EU data: the third largest in Europe and well above the EU average of 16.2 percent.
A new law that went into effect in January is meant to help close that gap by allowing employees to request information about wage disparities from their employers, but as Carolynn Look and Elisabeth Behrmann pointed out in a recent Bloomberg feature, the law puts the onus on employees to ask, whereas other legislative efforts, like the UK’s mandatory pay gap reporting and similar laws being considered in France, compel employers to provide this information up front.
A major component of the challenge for Germany is cultural: The term Frauenberuf (women’s job) is still used to describe occupations like nursing, housekeeping, child care, and social work—jobs that are often low-paying, part-time, and lack clear pathways to career advancement, Look and Behrmann note:
Even in fields dominated by women, such as medical assistants, men can get paid 40 percent more. The lower pay, along with more part-time work for women, mean they earn about 50 percent less over their working lives than male peers, according to a 2017 study by the German Institute for Economic Research in Berlin.
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The accounting firm PwC has adopted a new rule in the UK whereby shortlists of candidates for senior roles must include at least one woman, the Daily Mail reported on Sunday:
Laura Hinton, chief people officer at PwC, said: ‘Diversity in our recruitment processes is something we’ve been focused on for some time and as part of this we are ensuring we have no all-male shortlists and more diverse interviewing panels.’
PwC, which specialises in tax and advisory services, recently set a target to recruit 50 per cent women and 50 per cent men in all of their recruitment drives. The firm also has a sizeable 35.9 per cent pay gap for its Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) employees. The move comes as it emerged that the three other companies which make up the Big Four – Deloitte, KPMG and EY – had all called for greater diversity on their candidate lists.
PwC and its competitors all released their UK gender pay gap data in March in line with a law requiring most organizations in that country to do so. These firms’ partnership structures starkly illustrated the degree to which the underrepresentation of women in leadership roles compounds the gender pay gap.: PwC reported a mean gender pay gap of 43.8 percent and a median gap of 18.7 percent when partners were included, whereas the mean gap for employees of PwC Services Ltd., the legal entity that employs most of the company’s UK workforce, was just 12 percent.
Overall, the 61.4 of the roles in the top quartile of the firm are occupied by men, the report showed. Absent the underrepresentation of women in senior roles, PwC said its overall UK pay gap would be as low as 2.9 percent—a difference that “can largely be explained by time in role and skill set factors.”
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The deadline for UK companies with at least 250 employees to publish their gender pay gaps arrived on Wednesday. According to the BBC, more than 10,000 companies in total submitted their data, 1,000 of them waiting until the last day to do so. Overall, the median pay gap among those reporting stood at 9.7 percent, with 78 percent of firms paying men more than women, 14 percent paying women more, and 8 percent reporting no pay gap at all. An analysis in January had predicted that a significant number of companies would ultimately miss the deadline, and indeed, hundreds have failed to report, Rebecca Hilsenrath, chief executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, told the BBC:
“We’re looking at approximately 1,500 companies which haven’t reported,” she told the BBC. “We’re obviously pleased with the rate of reporting, but it is the law, it’s not an option. It is the right thing to do, and we will be enforcing against all those organisations which failed to meet the deadline.”
In practice, this would mean a statutory investigation process, she said. The EHRC will be sending letters to all of those organisations on Monday. They will then have 28 days to respond. Terms of reference will then be issued for the enforcement process, which will be made public. “This is going to be a very public affair. It will impact quite considerably on members of the public, people who work for them, and you’ll see a growing backlash against people who aren’t complying,” she said.
The EHRC had previously warned that organizations face “unlimited fines” for failing to comply with the gender pay gap reporting law. The more effective punishment, however, may be the “very public affair” Hilsenrath is promising. Senior British professionals indicated in a survey late last year that they believed revelations of large gender pay gaps would hurt companies’ reputations and cause them to lose employees, with more than a third saying they thought this issue would be even more reputationally damaging than corporate tax avoidance.
At CEB, now Gartner, our latest research into pay equity finds that perceptions of pay inequality can be just as harmful to employee retention as pay inequities in fact—and the perceptions tend to be even worse than the facts.
Goldman Sachs on Friday reported its gender pay gap data in the UK in accordance with the law requiring most employers to do so by next month. According to Reuters, the bank reported a mean gender pay gap of 55.5 percent at its international business, with a bonus gap for that unit of 72.2 percent. The company’s data showed that within the international unit, 83 percent of those earning the highest hourly pay were men, while 62.4 percent of those earning the lowest hourly pay were women.
The median gaps were smaller than the mean, the BBC adds, coming in at 36.4 percent for hourly pay and 67.7 percent for bonuses. Goldman Sachs UK, a smaller unit that employs people in non-revenue positions, reported much smaller, though still significant, mean gaps of 16.1 percent in hourly pay and 32.5 percent in bonus pay. As other banks have reported, the disparity in bonuses widens the overall gender pay gap significantly and reflects the underrepresentation of women in senior roles with greater bonus potential.
Perhaps in anticipation of this disclosure, Goldman announced a plan last week to improve its gender balance. In a memo, Chief Executive Officer Lloyd Blankfein and President David Solomon stressed that men and women at the company are paid equally for equal work, but acknowledged that women are underrepresented, particularly in senior roles. The bank’s leaders declared a long-term goal of having women make up exactly half of the company’s workforce, Bloomberg reported on Thursday. They did not set a timeline for this ambitious goal, but as a first step, will ensure a 50/50 gender split in each class of fresh graduates Goldman hires by 2021:
Several major financial institutions in the UK have submitted their gender pay gap figures to the government in recent weeks in compliance with the law requiring them to do so by April 4. The data illustrate just how far the sector has still to go if it intends to achieve gender parity in earnings and career progression. The most recent bank to release its pay information is HSBC, which on Thursday reported a median pay gap of 29 percent and a mean gap of 59 percent based on hourly pay in 2017, the BBC reports. The bank also a median gap of 61 percent for bonus payments.
HSBC says these discrepancies are due not to pay discrimination, but rather to the underrepresentation of women in its leadership:
HSBC said its pay gap was largely down to the fact it – like its rivals – has fewer women in senior roles, with just 23% of higher positions held by women. Across the whole organisation, however, 54% of its workforce is female. HSBC has a target to try to improve its gender balance and aims to have 30% of senior roles held by women by 2020.
Barclays, meanwhile, revealed a median hourly pay gap of 43.5 percent, the BBC reported last month, greater than all but 28 of the 1,154 companies that had published their data so far. Lloyds Banking Group and the Royal Bank of Scotland reported average gaps of 33 percent and 37 percent, respectively, Bloomberg reported, highlighting that these wide gaps also reflected a dearth of women in senior roles—an imbalance the banks said they were committed to addressing:
The gender pay gap “is not where we want to be,” RBS Chief Executive Officer Ross McEwan, said in a call to reporters Friday. “We need to have more females in senior roles and we set some ambitious targets in the next three years to improve it and that’s what affects the gender pay gap.” Men make up about 70 percent of the employees in RBS highest-paid quartile, mirroring the proportion of women in the bank’s lowest-paid quartile. … Lloyds said Friday that its bonus gender gap was around 65 percent.
That the financial sector suffers from significant gender gap is not new: It’s one of the reasons why London’s overall gender pay gap is higher than any other region of the UK. Common among these firms is the concentration of women in lower-ranking roles with less bonus potential than their mostly male superiors.