'Still work to do' on gender pay gap as Portsmouth businesses strive for equality

BUSINESSES across the Portsmouth region are struggling to close the gender pay gap, according to new statistics.

Tuesday, 9th June 2020, 7:00 am
What creates Portsmouth's gender pay gap? Picture: Shutterstock

Every year, large companies send details of their gender pay gap to the government’s Equalities Office for publication – although due to the coronavirus pandemic, it was not made a legal requirement for the 2019/20 financial year.

But of the companies that did submit data to the government, for average pay gap of all reporting companies was 12.9 per cent in favour of men.

In Portsmouth, there appeared to be a general trend of the pay gap being reduced, but only by a matter of pence, year-on-year.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Penny Mordaunt, Portsmouth North MP.

Of the companies that submitted data for 2019/20, for every £10 earned by a man, a woman at that firm earned an average of £8.27 – 16p more than the previous financial year.

These differences are calculated via the salaries of every employee at the company, and is not a direct comparison of men and women in the same role.

But female entrepreneurs and politicians say this shows a deeper societal issue – that women still don’t get the same opportunities to progress their careers.

Rebecca Lodge, founder of digital marketing agency Little Kanga, says this means after October 30, women in Portsmouth’s large companies are essentially working for free.

The submission of the gender pay gap was made non-compulsory due to the coronavirus outbreak. Picture: Pixabay

She said: ‘It’s absolutely disgusting.

‘The trouble we have in Portsmouth is that there’s a strong engineering presence, and women tend to only get admin roles in these companies.

‘But these women often have the qualifications to go further into management in these companies.

‘These companies need to take another look at their hiring policies, and women should feel confident enough to push for the promotions they deserve.’

Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage. Picture: Habibur Rahman

Sue Ball, managing director at Verisona Law, said: ‘Most of these large employers are aware of discrimination in terms of pay equality.

‘But we still have to get to the point where everyone is considered equal.

‘The issue is that this has been the way of the world for quite some time – it's like turning a huge ship around, it’ll take time to correct the course.’

From the previous financial year, some companies saw their gender pay gap increase.

Sue Ball from Verisona Law. Picture: Habibur Rahman

For example, Fareham College’s gap between men and women expanded by £1.60 per £10, from £8.30 to £6.70 – with other schools in the area also having some of the largest pay discrepancies.

A spokeswoman for the college said: ‘There are twice as many female employees working at Fareham College as male employees which naturally has an impact on the data collected.

‘Fareham College strives to address the gender pay gap where it occurs by regularly conducting reviews, carrying out further analysis and exploring ways in which it can be reduced.’

On the engineering front, Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt says things could get worse before they get better.

This, she says, is due to the national push for more women to take on apprenticeships in the industry.

‘I know local firms are taking this seriously and progress is being made – but we need to look at what is happening,’ she said.

Becky Lodge, founder of Little Kanga. Picture: Sarah Standing (180419-6248)

‘Some things that we want employers to do might actually increase the gap for a short time; for example, if an engineering firm took on a lot of female apprentices.

‘Firms that have good diversity are 15 per cent more profitable. It's right and it makes good business sense.’

Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage was the minister for women and equalities from May 2015 to July 2016.

She believes that the key is giving women the ability to push forward with their careers.

‘One issue is the need to take career breaks for maternity leave and other caring responsibilities which so often fall to women,’ she said.

‘We know flexible working can help carers to remain in work but employers also need to look at other ways to help retain and retrain valuable staff.

‘Many employers have woken up to the potential advantages of home working during the Covid-19 outbreak.’

However, in the cases of Fareham Borough Council and Williams Trade Supplies, the gender pay gap now swings in favour of women.

Ross McNally, chief executive of Hampshire Chamber of Commerce, said this change has to come about breaking down the systemic barriers in society.

He: ‘Women and men doing the same roles should be equally rewarded and there are many proactive employers in and around Portsmouth who ensure that happens.

‘We of course welcome the narrowing of the overall gender pay gap in the city but clearly action is still needed in some workplaces so that women of all ages and at all levels receive fair and equal pay. The measures these businesses must take include identifying and removing barriers to equal training and career development opportunities.

‘There is a particular need to support women who are parents and carers into skilled roles and senior positions. The government must also play its part in promoting flexible working through measures such as affordable, quality childcare, better advice for women at the start of their careers, and more funding for apprenticeships and vocational education that women can access.’

Dr Emily Yarrow, a lecturer at the University of Portsmouth’s Faculty of Business and Law, has been studying the gender pay gap for years.

She believes that although the pay gap may have shrunk – albeit only slightly – it’s the personnel at the top of these companies that need reviewing.

She said: ‘This is not a case of women being underqualified or not being on the job market; they’re here and they’re being overlooked. It’s a systemic issue.

‘The slight narrowing in the data is from women taking jobs in the lower quartiles of these companies. The reality is that big bosses need to look at the diversity in their board of directors for us to see any real change.

‘For that to happen, they need to rethink the company’s culture and provide more robust flexibility options.

‘There is so much female talent out there – it just needs to be tapped into.’

What is the gender pay gap?

The gender pay gap is the average difference in pay between men and women in a workplace.

Rather then comparing people who do the same job, the pay gap looks at the average difference in full-time salaries between the two genders.

Every year, companies with more than 250 employees have to submit their gender pay gap figures to the government’s Equalities Office, at the end of the financial year.

The gender pay gap excludes any overtime pay, but companies must declare how much was paid to employees in bonuses.

While the gender pay gap has fallen in recent years, there are still major discrepancies in pay between men and women – particularly for over 40s.

In 2019 the UK’s gender pay gap was calculated at 17.3 per cent.

This means that for every £1 men were paid, women were paid around 83p.