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UK tech gender pay gap: What’s the solution?

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The topic of equality in the workplace is hotter than ever, with recent research by recruitment firm Hired noting women in the UK tech sector earn 9% less than their male counterparts.

But what’s the solution? Should companies go down the route of blind recruitment – where gender markers are removed from candidates’ CVs – or is government intervention and regulation required to combat the widening digital skills gap?

Here’s what some members of the UK’s technology sector had to say.

Top tech stats: tech salaries on the rise, northern tech gender gap increases & more

A collaborative effort

Annie Moss-Quate, founder of Leeds-based She Does Digital, told Tech City News: “Women are making a huge contribution to the tech industry, so it is important that companies address and tackle the gender pay gap to ensure that it is beneficial for women currently working in the sector and encourages more to join.”

Whilst raising awareness about the problem is, she said, a step in the right direction, Moss-Quate believes employers need to carry out more salary benchmarking exercises to ensure staff across the board are being offered fair wages.

Collaboration between incumbents, she added, is key.

“Together we stand a better chance of solving the issue and building an industry more young women will want to forge a career in,” said the founder.

A top down initiative

Ghela Boskovich, founder of FemTechGlobal, a community working towards inclusion and diversity, spoke about the UK government’s efforts to foster greater transparency when it comes to employees’ pay, but pointed out the issue went further than the male vs female gap.

“Blind recruiting has been mentioned, but it’s not enough. Blind CV review and candidate assessment is more critical. By removing gender markers like name, and bias prompts like candidate address and educational institution, and only reviewing candidate skill set, experience, and results, we can change the composition of the talent pool being reviewed for a position,” explained Boskovich.

The founder also spoke about the importance of unconscious bias training, both at the organisational and individual levels, but emphasised that there was no simple solution to address the problem.

“All of these things can make a difference, but there’s no one panacea solution. It will require legislation, corporate policy commitment and change, and individual accountability (to call it out, to negotiate, to support colleagues and team members when they ask for fair pay) to really bridge the gap,” she argued.

A male dominated sector

Tim Kellet, director at Paydata, a reward management consultancy, shared his view with Tech City News: “What is likely to be driving any potential pay gaps in the industry, is the nature of it being an historically male dominated sector.

“As with other sectors that have similar problems, such as construction, there are no quick fixes. Whilst employers need to think about how to attract more women into the system, in the short-term this can make the problem worse; for example, attracting more female apprentices only makes the gap wider,” he added.

In terms of gender pay reporting, the director said it was important for employers to offer a suitable narrative to explain any differences in pay, something, he added, which can only be achieved accurately via an equal pay audit.

“In looking to employ more females, employers must also consider how they will retain them – working in a male-dominated environment can be intimidating and employers must have a suitable retention strategy in place, alongside their recruitment strategy,” concluded Kellet.

Not a natural choice

Shainaz Firfiray, an assistant professor of organisation & HRM at Warwick Business School, who researches social identity, work-life balance and ethics, dispelled the myth that women naturally chose jobs that entail less commitment in terms of work hours.

“Often the gender pay gap is attributed to women’s inclination to opt out of top jobs or work reduced hours signifying that this gap is merely a result of natural choices. As women have shorter working lives and face more interruptions during their careers than men, it is assumed that they will avoid jobs that require large skills-investment because the returns to such investments can only be reaped if they remain in the workforce for a longer period,” she explained.

“However, as women have closed the gap in education and experience, it is apparent that other factors such as discrimination and unconscious biases against women are more important in explaining the gender pay gap. The undervaluation of women’s work and social norms that reinforce perceptions about female economic dependence are some of the common biases faced by women while negotiating their salaries,” added Firfiray.

The professor said women were facing other systematic disadvantages in the workplace. They rarely initiate negotiations on employment terms, she noted, and when they do, they tend to negotiate lower salaries and less employment outcomes than their male counterparts.

Decisive action

Geoff Pearce, VP – Reward at NGA Human Resources, said he believed the gap was slowly narrowing, but noted that greater efforts are necessary to bring about true equality.

Current research, he said, estimates it will take half a century for the UK to eradicate the gender pay gap. “We cannot wait a whole generation for this to happen, so companies must take decisive action now, if the want to contribute to a more equal society,” he argued.

Additionally, Pearce went on to say that the response to equal pay challenges were often characterised by ‘spot fixes’, which rarely work in the long-term and often make way for additional problems.

“Organisations need to continually monitor the gender pay gap closely to ensure ongoing parity and nurture a culture of diversity, if they want to help make meaningful progress,” concluded the VP.

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