A few weeks ago I was invited by Channel 4 news to comment on the government’s publishing of gender pay scales. Apparently they had all of the usual academics available, but they wanted a voice from industry to contribute to the debate from a ‘real world’ point of view.
The hour’s long interview naturally translated into about 7 seconds of coverage, because telly land, so here’s a bit of a round up on the headline content:
How will the publishing of pay scales affect us in the design industry?
Well, in short, it won’t. With 98% of design businesses in the UK employing less than 50 people, this isn’t a bit of legislation that directly helps us in any way. That said, anything that brings the issue closer to the forefront, and gets this level of national coverage, can only be a step in the right direction.
Wouldn’t it be interesting if, as an industry, we volunteered to publish? Now that really would be empowering.
Do we welcome ‘naming and shaming’ in the name of equality?
Personally, I don’t advocate anything that prides itself on ‘shaming’. It’s a nasty little word, and has connotations that make people recoil from it. That’s the very last thing we need in this debate. We need to make the sound business, and humanitarian, case for gender equality in the workplace, not give greater incentives for people to find ways around it.
Proper, workable, solutions that come from within industry and are championed from top to bottom.
What are the solutions to eradicate the pay gap?
How long have you got?! But there are two key points here for me; the first is the responsibility of business leads to demand that it is a cultural and financial priority.
Naturally, the more women there are at the top of a business, the more air time this issue seems to get. And we know there aren’t enough women at the top in our industry. Ergo, problem.
But we also need male leaders to champion this issue. Kerning the Gap is very clear that this is an equality debate in every sense of the word, and is about doing better business, whilst supporting the individuals within it.
The second point is exactly on that subject; the responsibility of the individual. Do you know if the company you work for offers equal pay? Would they tell you if you asked? Would they even know? The more these questions get asked, the more businesses will have to respond. Let’s start asking some uncomfortable questions. Surely they’re the ones that most need answering.
Will it affect how people respond to brands that fail to meet the measures?
I’d love to say, yes, people will immediately boycott brands that don’t meet gender equality, but we know full well that brands continuously survive far worse image problems.
But it does give me a hope for a future where gender equality is demanded as a standard for companies. Remember in the early 90s when businesses promoted themselves as being environmentally sustainable, and it was a marketing asset? Now it’s a hygiene factor, where we expect businesses to build it into every step of their delivery. It’s high time gender equality had the same importance.
* Naturally it was a bit of a coup for Kerning the Gap to be asked to comment – and reporter Darshna Soni is keen to cover more of our activity – so a massive thank you to all of you who have been supporting and covering our stuff. It’s definitely getting us noticed, and I am hugely grateful. Natalie.