One of the limitations with the new duty on employer’s to publish their gender pay gap is the absence of any requirement to do anything about it. The hope, of course, is that by not stipulating a list of compulsory actions employers will voluntarily take meaningful action rather than adopt a tick box approach to compliance.  For employers that are new to this issue and are serious about reducing their gender pay gap, it can be daunting to know where to start. In this article we discuss how the University of Glasgow has been measuring their gender pay gap, the way in which they analysed this, and their solutions to address this.

Learning the lessons from others

As a result of different specific equality duties operating north of the border listed public authorities in Scotland have been required to publish their gender pay gap (GPG) since 2013.

The University of Glasgow’s experience

The University of Glasgow’s current GPG is 19.1% which is the same as the UK’s national average. Although their GPG has decreased by 5% in the last 4 years, and the percentage of female Professors has increased from 20.5% to 24%, it was felt that more needed to be done to tackle the GPG in the senior levels of the workforce. Using the Hay Job Evaluation methodology roles similar in size are placed into the University structure of Grades 1 to 9, and in this section of the workforce the GPG was negligible.  Ambitious plans have recently been put in place to reduce their gender pay gap to 16% by 2020.

The starting point in understanding why there is a GPG is to look at levels of pay and male to female ratios across various grades. Under the draft Gender Pay Gap Reporting Regulations there is no obligation to capture information at grade level.  Yet taking this approach can be a very helpful first step in understanding the ratio of male to females at each grade, and the levels of pay at each grade.  As a result of conducting this analysis the University could see that the reason for their pay gap was largely because of occupational segregation – quite simply there are not enough senior female academics. This is largely a progression issue since the ratios of men to women at a lower and middle grade is relatively balanced.

After conducting their GPG analysis they discovered:

  • 20% of the senior management population is female, a figure which is reversed entirely at the lowest teaching grade where  20% of that population are male.
  • Reducing the organisational gender pay gap is largely dependent on increasing the ratio of female academics in grades 8 & 9  in order to increase the pool which could progress to professoriate level.
  • Males typically get to the senior roles earlier than females. Females take on average 23 years (from early career) to reach professor whilst males take 14 years.  
  • Only 12% of external professorial appointments were female. Overall in the last 2 years 30% of professorial appointments were female.
  • For Academic Promotion, females are less likely to apply for promotion, although in general are as likely to be successful in their application as males.
  • Part-time workers are predominantly female and in grades 1-5;

So what is the University doing about this?

  • Increasing the number of female academics at grade 9 and above by:
    • Encouraging more females to apply for academic promotion;
    • Introducing measures to maintain the proportion of successful female applicants for academic promotion (including targeted workshops);
    • Expanding Early Career Development Programme to include all those on an academic contract;
    • Supporting early career staff with mentoring and other career support such as the academic returners policy
    • Focussing on removing barriers to career progression (increase flexible working arrangements & continually monitor promotion criteria for unconscious bias)
  • Attracting talent and recruitment at senior professorial level to the upper zones;
  • Highlighting successful senior women case studies to inspire females at an early career stage.
  • Continuing with their Athena Swan and Aurora programmes and their implementation;
  • Establishing an Equal Pay Working Group to manage and track progress, investigating areas of concern and ensuring actions are targeted accordingly;
  • Implementing the Glasgow Professional, a behavioural and competence framework to aid career development for professional services staff;
  • Succession planning and talent mapping linked to development plans to assist in delivering greater gender balance in senior roles over time championed by unit heads at a local level.

In line with the approach taken by the University of Essex, the University of Glasgow explored the impact that equalising salaries would have on the overall GPG. In doing so, the pay gap was reduced by c2%. This clearly demonstrated that other actions are required in order to effectively tackle the GDP.

Another approach favoured by PWC is to produce an “adjusted pay gap” figure which removes the impact of the demographic imbalance at different grade levels.  These alternative approaches do highlight the limitations of using an average figure.

Another approach is to describe the difference not as a gender pay gap but rather as a gender earnings difference, since the GPG figure is not measuring like for like in relation to pay but rather the overall average earnings of each gender.

Another useful pointer is to ensure that tackling the GPG involves a link between HR, reward and senior management. Having someone within your reward team who can “run the numbers”  based on different hypothetical situations is incredibly helpful. Ensuring senior management buy in means that the issue is not simply seen as something which is the problem of HR. With UCU calling on its members to strike over pay increases and the gender pay gap in Universities, the issue is definitely attracting wider attention.