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Mind the Gap: Is Public Shaming the Way to End Pay Inequity?

Sarah Thomas
2/12/2016

New regulation introduced in the UK on Friday will require private companies with more than 250 employees to reveal their pay gap by gender in the hopes that public shaming will spark change.

The regulations, put forth by Women and Equalities Minister Nicky Morgan, will affect 8,000 employers across the UK and require that they start calculating the pay gap from April 2017 with the first tables reported in April 2018. These reports will be published on each company's website, will be searchable via an online database and are expected to be updated every year.

Immediately following the news, there's already ample dissent on whether this new regulation is too much or not enough. The BBC reports that some have criticized the regulation for not requiring companies to report until 2018, meaning they don't have to account for today's gap or outline the ways they will work to improve it.

On the flip-side, others point out that the tables only paint a partial picture as they don't account for the mix of part-time and full-time workers or sectoral differences.


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The idea behind the tables is to increase transparency as a first step towards fixing the problem. It's a method that companies like Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) and Accenture have undertaken voluntarily, while others like many of the tech companies in Silicon Valley have done more reluctantly, in many cases. (See Intel Closed the Gender Pay Gap in 2015, WiCipedia: Open Source Favoritism, Fairygod Bosses & Crooked Credit Checks and A Vast Valley: Tech's Inexcusable Gender Gap.)

In my opinion, the pay gap is a big problem -- women still make 78.6% as much as men on average, and if current trends continue, that gap isn't expected to close until 2059.

That said, I'm not sure naming-and-shaming companies that have gaps in their pay is the best way of going about fixing it -- at least not without context. There are many reasons for pay discrepancies, and the ones outlined above are important ones. Do they lump in full-time, part-time workers and those that fall somewhere in between? Is it safe to assume all employees' education and past work experiences are equal? In some instances, did the female ask for more? It's unfortunate, but men tend to ask for more at a higher rate than women, so while the offer may have started the same, it might not end up that way.

I'm all for transparency -- it's an important first step. And the pay gap can be closed -- Intel has shown us that. But to do so in a meaningful way and before 2059, companies need to examine their culture and pay practices to get to the root of what is a multi-faceted issue, women need to demand the pay they deserve and the numbers being reported need to tell the full story.

— Sarah Thomas, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Editorial Operations Director, Light Reading

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mendyk
mendyk
2/14/2016 | 3:24:41 PM
Re: What do you think?
I agree -- there's no simple or simplistic way to identify the nature of the disparity, let alone to identify possible remedies. Making aggregated (and hence not individualized) data publicly available seems a reasonable if limited step. At the least, it may get HR departments to do something useful to make sure their company isn't falling behind the disparity-correction curve.
Sarah Thomas
Sarah Thomas
2/12/2016 | 6:38:11 PM
What do you think?
I'm a little torn on this issue, if that's not obvious. Transparency is important, and women should absolutely make the same as men, all else being equal, but it's not as cut-and-dry as the numbers may make it seem.

What do you all think?
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