Linda Kelly (left), pictured with Maura Byrne of HERizon
The Gender Pay Gap is defined as the difference between the average gross earnings of female and male employees. In Ireland today, the average gender pay gap is over 14% but can rise to 29% in some industry sectors.
Pay disparity is an enormous barrier to female economic independence, confidence and advancement. In the first of a series of interviews on the Gender Pay Gap, HERizon talks to Linda Kelly of IMPACT. The IMPACT Union represents 57,000 members of which 75% are female.
Linda Kelly is Lead Organiser with responsibility for Strategic Organising in IMPACT Trade Union. She has worked for IMPACT for the past five years. Linda has a Masters in Leadership & Strategy from the Institute of Public Administration. Prior to working for IMPACT, Linda founded Cork Feminista with Dr Jennifer DeWan. From 2008 to 2010, Linda worked with USI as the national Equality Officer. Linda has also served as a director of the Irish Family Planning Association and Hanna’s House Peace Project.
Along with other colleagues in IMPACT, Linda has been involved in supporting the draft legislation for the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (Gender Pay Gap Information) Bill 2017.
HERizon: Can you tell us about the proposed gender pay legislation and why IMPACT have become involved?
Linda: The proposed gender pay gap legislation will introduce a scheme whereby employers with 50+ employees will be required to “publish information relating to the pay of their employees for the purpose of showing whether there are differences in the pay of male and female employees and, if so, the nature and scale of such differences”.
IMPACT got involved in this issue because as a trade union one of our core believes is in equal pay for equal work. Add to that the fact that 75% of our own members are women and the issue becomes even more important for us.
HERizon: What needs to happen for the bill to be enacted into law?
Linda: The Bill now has to go to committee stage before moving to the Dáil. It won cross-party support in the Seanad, but IMPACT and other campaigners are anxious to ensure that its provisions are not amended in ways that water them down. Specifically, some businesses argue that pay gap figures should be collected, but not published. We believe this would fundamentally weaken the legislation. What would be the point of it then? The issue would still continue to be hidden whereas we need to put it front and centre and face up to it.
HERizon: What effect do you feel the gender pay gap has on women?
Linda: Socioeconomic independence is key for women’s equality. Earning 14% less than men restricts women’s access to equality in our society. On a personal level, I find it demoralizing to think you can do the same work as a colleague but because you were born a woman, you earn less. It’s completely unacceptable in a modern society.
HERizon: In the UK, mandatory gender pay reporting legislation has been passed forcing companies with 250 plus employees to release data on the salaries and bonuses paid to their male and female staff and to publish it on their website by April 2018. How does the proposed Irish legislation differ from this?
Linda: There is very little difference in the proposed legislation. The UK legislation is targeted at employers with 250+ employees, in Ireland it will be employers with 50+ employees. This accounts for the different population demographics. Other than that, it is broadly similar.
In the UK, employers are obliged to publish the following:
• Publish their median gender pay gap figures
• Publish their mean gender pay gap figures
• Publish the proportion of men & women in each quartile of the pay structure
• Publish the gender pay gaps for any bonuses paid out during the year
More information on the UK reporting is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/view-gender-pay-gap-information
If this bill is passed, employers in Ireland will be obliged to publish the following:
• the difference between the mean hourly rate of pay of male employees and that of female employees
• the difference between the median hourly rate of pay of male employees and that of female employees
• the difference between the mean bonus pay paid to male employees and that paid to female employees
• the difference between the median bonus pay paid to male employees and that paid to female employees
• the proportions of male and female employees who were paid bonus pay
• the proportions of male and female employees in the lower, lower middle, upper middle and upper quartile pay bands
It’s important to look beyond the UK as well. Significant and meaningful gender pay gap reporting laws exist in Austria, Belgium, and France. In Austria, private companies with 150 employees or more must produce a detailed gender pay report every two years. This report must include information broken down by job category and qualification level. In Belgium, private companies with 50 or more employees must also generate similarly detailed reports every two years. In France companies with 50 or more employees must publish annual gender reports that detail their internal gender pay gaps alongside information on work-life balance, working conditions, access to training and more.
HERizon: The Nordic countries have long been pioneers of gender equality. What’s happening there?
Linda: Yes, laws mandating obligatory pay audits exist in Finland and Sweden. In Finland, employers with more than 30 employees must, every two or three years, provide reports containing detailed information on the gender pay gap between comparable groups within an organisation. In Sweden, meanwhile, companies with more than ten employees must generate annual detailed gender pay audits.
Denmark requires slightly less detailed pay reports from companies with more than 35 employees.
HERIZON: What about other European countries?
Linda: Italy requires that companies with 100 or more workers produce biennial reports containing basic gender pay information.
Less specific and more loosely defined requirements for regular reports on gender equality information exist for employers in Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain.
Specific and detailed pay reporting measures are either planned or are currently being debated in Germany and Lithuania. Gender pay gap reporting was set to come into force in Northern Ireland by June 30th, 2017 but has been delayed due to the political situation.
Pay reporting and transparency laws unrelated to the gender pay gap exist in the Czech Republic, Estonia, Iceland, Poland, Slovenia and Slovakia.
HERizon: Some companies in the financial services sector have already held their hands up about the average 29% disparity between male and female pay. Some of the responsibility for this gap is ascribed to less women studying STEM and fewer senior female leaders in the sector. Do you see any other reasons for pay disparity generally?
Linda: In its publication, ‘Tackling the gender pay gap in the European Union’, the European Commission states that the gender pay gap is a complex issue caused by a number of interrelated factors, and identifies the following as the main causes of the gender pay gap in the EU:
• discrimination in the workplace,
• women and men carry out different jobs and often work in different sectors,
• workplace practices and pay systems,
• undervaluing of women’s work and skills,
• few women in senior and leadership positions,
• gender roles and traditions, and
• balancing work and family responsibilities.
HERizon: What benefits will pay transparency bring to companies?
Linda: I think it will bring a number of positive benefits.
1. Knowing an organisation’s gender pay gap statistics will change how people, and particularly women, look for work. According to a Young Women’s Trust survey, “84% of women said they would consider an organisation’s gender pay data when applying for a job with them.”
2. If firms’ pay gaps are public knowledge, those organisations are incentivised to compete with each other in order to narrow their pay disparities and, thereby, attract and retain the best female talent. Brands trade on their reputations, and will compete to protect and enhance those reputations. Pay gap reporting could introduce a ‘race to the top’ dynamic on gender pay equality.
3. There is significant evidence to suggest that women negotiate their salaries less often than men. Linda Babcock, for example, author of a book on this subject – Women Don’t Ask – found that 7% of women attempted to negotiate a salary offer, while 57% of men did. Gender pay gap reporting will help change that. For a woman on her way into a salary negotiation, knowing her employer’s gender pay gap is a hugely valuable piece of information.
4. Being able to see various companies’ pay gaps will help Government make tendering decisions and help firms make choices about who to engage as suppliers. Government and companies will be able to decide not to work with firms whose pay gaps are too large. This creates additional pressure on organisations to reduce their gender pay gaps.
5. This is a realistic measure. It’s both of benefit to workers and pragmatically achievable for employers. Any firm with more than 50 employees is likely to have some kind of payroll software. It shouldn’t take long, using even the most basic payroll programmes, to calculate a gender pay gap. This isn’t a direct intervention into the mechanism of someone’s company, it’s a market oriented ‘nudge’ – a soft stimulus or a prompt – for companies to engage in self-reflection and to open a dialogue.
6. The pay gap figure is a single, simple metric that encapsulates a lot of complexity. Measuring and publishing it will help companies track the success (or otherwise) of any other workplace policies around gender and equality. If the headline pay gap figure goes in the right direction, then something is working; if it doesn’t, then it’s not. The overall number will also help companies benchmark themselves against other employers over time.
7. The UN predicts that at the current rate it will take 70 years for the pay gap to close. If passed, this Bill would act as a major catalyst in that process.
8. Introducing gender pay gap reporting would represent an important symbolic gesture towards gender equality in Ireland. It’s important that our elected officials and business leaders demonstrate a commitment to the principles of gender equality now more than ever.
HERizon: The EU has set targets for reducing the gender earnings and pensions gap. Reducing childcare costs and workplaces enabling fathers to co-parent more are two potent policies. What do IMPACT members prefer/seek?
Linda: There’s a vicious circle at work regarding caring responsibilities. Women tend to earn less, so it often makes economic sense for mums to stay at home and dads to retain the day job. But every year out of work reinforces the problem of the gender pay gap. Women need a choice, and paid paternity leave would certainly help make that choice more real when families are considering these options. IMPACT has called for two month’s paid parental leave for either parent to be introduced from next year. But as well as legal rights, we need to see a change in attitudes, a change in culture. This is why we’re pressing so hard on gender pay gap reporting. It’s not about ‘naming and shaming.’ It’s about giving employers the space to say “we recognise the scale and nature of the problem and now we’re going to do something about it.”
HERizon: Seventy five percent of IMPACT members are women. Can you tell us the history of IMPACT and its female membership?
Linda: Over the decades, public service jobs have become increasingly feminized, and this is accelerating as care services – for children, the elderly and people with disabilities – come increasingly to the fore. In line with this trend, over the years women have made up more and more of IMPACT’s membership. I think our negotiating priorities have come to reflect this. We have a much bigger focus on work-life balance, tackling low pay, childcare, and other issues that affect women most. We’ve also put a lot of resources into organizing and professionalizing female dominated sectors like health and social care professions, cabin crew, special needs assistants, and early education staff.
But like a lot of organisations, we’ve struggled to reflect this in our own structures, although that’s starting to change. At local level, women are generally very well represented in positions of influence in IMPACT. We’re employing more women in negotiating and organizing roles too. But this isn’t anywhere near adequately reflected at senior levels in the union. We’re working on it. For instance, last year we introduced specific leadership training and support for women activists through the ‘Inspire’ programme and we worked with Women for Election on it. The results have been very positive. A number of the course participants moved onto more senior leadership roles after the training. We’re currently organising a second INSPIRE to take place in November.
HERizon: Tell us a bit about your own female leadership journey?
Linda: I’ve always been surrounded by very strong, intelligent women and that’s definitely shaped my worldview. I went to an all-girls primary school, an all-girls secondary school and my third level education was all women as well. I was probably 22/23 years of age before I fully understood the impact that gender dynamics were having on my work life. It can be really hard being one of only a few women in a male dominated work environment and at the same time try to challenge issues around sexism or break through ‘the old boys club’. I was very fortunate to have strong, women mentors who encouraged and supported me and helped me navigate my early career. Now I do what I can to encourage and mentor other young women in similar environments.
HERizon: On female leadership and gender equality, do you see a changing landscape for women in the workplace?
Linda: The landscape is changing but not quickly enough and not dramatically enough. Yes, things have improved significantly for women in the workplace but that’s not enough. Women still carry the brunt of caring responsibilities and until that stereotype is tackled and men take on more of the caring and household responsibilities, women will also find it hard to participate in all levels of society on a 50-50 basis.
HERizon: What other initiative would be helpful to make it easier for women to advance in their careers and take more positions of leadership?
Linda: Confidence is the biggest issue that I see in my job. I know very articulate, intelligent, hard working women who somehow when it comes to the big job or the big promotion, suddenly believe they’re not worthy or that they can’t do it. There is a responsibility on all staff, men and women, at senior management level to reach out to women and build their confidence through mentoring and support.
HERizon: What are your top three tips for women to advance in their careers?
Linda: Lead by example. It’s ok if people dislike you, don’t waste time worrying about it. There are times when it is better to ask for forgiveness rather than permission.
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GENDER PAY GAP PETITION
HERizon has launched a ‘No Gender Pay Gap’ Petition. You can help make a difference to women by simply signing the petition here