Following the High Pay Centre’s annual FTSE 100 CEO pay survey released this morning which shows there are only six female FTSE 100 CEOs, earning on average over £2 million less than male CEOs last year, Dr Sumita Ketkar, Senior Lecturer in Leadership and Professional Development at Westminster Business School, believes the figures are disappointing:
“A quick glance at the top ten earners from the FTSE 100 companies shows male CEOs in the FTSE 100 earned on average £4.7 million last year, compared with £2.6 million on average for women. With only six female FTSE 100 CEOs, the position remains very much a ‘big boys club’. The skewed gender pay gap story of BBC top earners that recently dominated the headlines further brings this to the fore.
Given the high female workforce participation in the UK, these statistics are disappointing and make high-sounding debates about gender equality seem almost farcical. However, in order to ‘fix’ the under-representation of women in top jobs it is important to unpick some of the reasons underlying the widening pay gap as women advance in their careers.
“Even though high-level reporting statistics may not tell the full story, they help start an inclusive conversation across society beyond the ‘feministic’ narrative. At a societal level too, it is important that women are encouraged to embrace traditional male jobs – i.e. including accounting, engineering and technology subjects such as artificial intelligence and robotics. These factors are all inter-related and therefore solutions must be holistic and integrated.
“Wage inequality, reflective of the vertical segregation between men and women, is a product of several inter-related factors. Fewer women tend to rise to executive level jobs and boards because they often leave the workforce at critical junctures in their lives, despite family friendly policies. Even women executives who do progress to the higher echelons, tend to occupy top jobs in smaller companies or in relatively low paid sectors. Biases in pay negotiations and performance for performance payout, and in-group behaviours, such as ‘boys’ club’ networking, make the gap even more entrenched. This may not necessarily be at the CEO level but occurs at other top jobs such as CFO and COO.
“If economic parity is to be achieved, it is imperative that a multipronged approach is adopted. Businesses must take proactive measures for tackling inequity. This could include for example having a greater proportion of women in the compensation committees determining executive pay and performance related bonuses in companies, supporting women through the talent pipeline by mentoring and training, and minimising unconscious biases during organisational practices such as staffing, training, promoting and rewarding. At the public policy level, initiatives and regulations such as requiring businesses to measure the gender pay gap and report it, and banning adverts that substantiate gender stereotypes can help to some extent.
“How long it will take for making the gender gap nonexistent depends on how quickly changes are kick started and maintained; a more synergistic approach will decidedly help.”