Call me an optimist but I think most companies and people want to do the right thing. We are just conditioned by falling into the trap of repeating things we’ve always done.
Gender Pay Gap (GPG) reporting is compulsory in the UK. I think that’s a good thing, as it exposes this legacy practice. It also holds business leaders accountable. The data is so transparent there’s no hiding place. Producing the data is quite a task, but it provides real evidence from which business leaders can make real decisions – in fact, it challenged some of the preconceptions I had about the good things we’re doing in our business. And whilst I’m all for naming and shaming, it is important that poor performing companies are encouraged to be open and honest. In this way they will admit to needing help.
Classic male, pale and stale
I work in an industry that has always failed to retain women throughout their careers, which has contributed to significant pay gaps. Alongside construction (24%) and financial services (23%), real estate is in the bottom of the rankings with a median GPG of 20% – meaning women earn 80p for every £1 paid to a man. And we don’t just suffer from gender imbalance, there’s also a challenge around ethnicity, background etc. You name it, we are the classic male, pale and stale industry, particularly in senior positions.
In recent years we have actually improved significantly in attracting women, but still struggle with good diversity at senior levels. I spent the last few weeks attending events in order to listen and learn. At JLL, we have been open about admitting we have a problem. It is important for us to learn from others and put into place some serious action that will materially change the situation over time.
I recently spoke at a Gender Pay Gap panel event, hosted by London Business School and the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership. Panellists included Helen Lamprell, General Counsel and Director of External Affairs at Vodafone UK, Aneeta Rattan, Assistant Professor of Organisational Behaviour at London Business School, and Helene Reardon Bond OBE, who was the original architect of the UK’s GPG legislation.
The real stigma of part-time work
I found the event really informative. There were several big issues highlighted but a key takeaway was “stigma”; stigma around admitting you have a GPG problem, stigma around men taking paternity leave, and in particular the real stigma around part-time work.
The data clearly shows that when people take a career break and decide to come back part-time then career progression is often limited. This impacts women more than men. To overcome the stigma around part-time work I believe men must get involved and be part of the solution. We all need to do this together because the more advocates we have for part-time work in senior roles, the easier it will be for people to progress on a more flexible basis.
This will not take one or two years, so decisions must be made for the long term. I’m a big supporter of GPG reporting and hope in the future to be one of those male advocates for change. You can be the ultimate judge on that!