What can men do to reduce gender pay inequality?


For a start they can stop “welcoming this discussion” and blathering other related clichés!

If men welcomed a serious discussion on gender pay equality, we’d have been having them regularly since equal pay for both gender (for the same job) became compulsory in 1975.

Very few people in work today were working in 1975, that means that most men have worked their entire lifetimes with pay structures and work culture biased towards them. We men have done very little about this as we make the rules of the game and re-assert those rules every time decisions on hire and reward occur.

If we are honest, us men don’t welcome this discussion at all. It is not something we earnestly consider on the golf course or on the terraces or at the pub or whatever male preserve we retire to. We are quite comfortable with the status quo and we don’t welcome the prospect that our employer may “un-turn some stones” in April 2018 at all.

In case you are not aware, April 2018 is the deadline for employers with over 250 staff to produce reports on pay equality within the organisation. The reports won’t go as far as the BBC report which reveals individual pay – instead it will report on each quartile of the workforce. There are loopholes for reward directors to consult and I understand that smart reporting is already on the agenda of smart reward consulting. That said – it looks like most employers will to some extent do a BBC. The aggregate data is going to be collected by Government and some sense made of it.

This is the first step in a process where evidence not hearsay drives change. If people don’t think that transparency matters then they should look at financial services and the changes that occurring as we get to learn what we pay to have our financial affairs managed.

The second step will be interesting. Will transparency in itself bring change or will we have change thrust upon us.

The answer to that question is , in my opinion, in the title of this blog. This is an issue not just for women but for men and it needs men to consider what they can do to ensure women are properly paid.

In all I read and listen to, the problem seems to get broken down (by women) into two compartments.

There are structural problems within organisations that mean that pay is biased towards men. Some of these biases are biological, it is women who bear most of the trauma of childbirth and who naturally are suited to nurturing very young children.women 2 It is entirely reasonable for women to take time off to have children but (and I hear this a lot from childless women) it is not reasonable that they get financially rewarded for having a family in the workplace.

The non-biological reasons for male biased pay structures are less easy to discuss. Whether it be the agent system at the BBC, or collective bargaining through unions or the lobbying that goes on in some organisations to secure pay rises, the system of reward seems still biased in men’s favour. Perhaps this is changing as we slowly see more women on Remuneration Committees , in senior HR positions and on executive boards, but it is a slow process and not enough has been done to change corporate structures in the past 42 years.

It is hard for men to discuss this for cultural reasons. Stroppy men are seen as driven and focussed, stroppy women still too often labelled “immature or menopausal”. The capacity for women to assert their point of view in the workplace is limited. Even in the Pension PlayPen lunches we run every month, it is hard to get women to turn up and assert their points of view. I chair these lunches and am wondering whether it would be better to offer the chair as a matter of course to any woman who makes it to the meeting.

I think the word “offer” or “ask” appropriate. Too often we “senior” men assume responsibilities and assert our points of view with no regard for the points of view of others “in the room”. I mean “in the room” both literally and metaphorically. I don’t sense that we often consider matters from any viewpoint than our own, because culturally that is the well-established “normal”.

What can men do?

To break down both the structural and cultural barriers that exist, we need transparency in gender pay data, we need women to have more of a voice and we need to have men aware that they should be offering women the right to assert their position in the workplace.

Even with all this, there is no certainty that the pace of change towards pay equality will improve, but I think there is every chance that we are at a tipping point where the new normal will be to assume change is needed.

Men are going to have to take this on board and take a step backwards. It seems to me that this is going to be as hard for them as it will be for women to take a step forward. However, the initiative to publish gender pay equality statistics within organisations which has already begun and which will gather pace over the next nine months, is going to catalyse change.

Men need to be aware of this and accept that it heralds a real change which will be most unwelcome in the short term. We have much to lose by way of power and  pay, we have little to gain – in the short-term . But in the the long-term, I believe that re-basing the reward structures within our workplaces to comply with the 1975 act is more than a legal necessity, it is an economic necessity. We under-employ women in our society and pay is only part of it.

The sooner we can harness the power of women to lead, the more productive and happier our workforces will become!

women 3


About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
This entry was posted in economics, leadership, pension playpen, pensions and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to What can men do to reduce gender pay inequality?

  1. Peter Tompkins says:

    I’m not sure you are right in describing the 1975 compulsory equal pay. It was 1970 by the way.

    The equal pay act gave the right to equal pay. A person can point to a person of the opposite gender doing the same work and say “I want paying the same”.

    But I found myself as an employer looking at salary grades and seeing people in the same role paid differently and knowing they had rights which they could claim but which I was not duty-bound to impose proactively. It always seemed to me to be the flaw in the system.

  2. henry tapper says:

    Thanks Peter, I’ll amend! There is of course no impulsion or compulsion on employers to level up or down- but giving women the culture in which to come forward would be an important step forward. I think this is something men can do – though it does need movement on both sides of the gender divide!

  3. Adrian Boulding says:

    Auto enrolment exacerbates the problem of lower pay for women as the qualifying earnings deduction which excludes the first £5876 of annual pay from pensionable pay bears more heavily on those with lower pay. Adrian

  4. henry tapper says:

    Yes , I hope that this is being thought about by the team running the current auto-enrolment review. Thanks as ever Adrian

  5. Thanks Henry. I think that the new gender pay reporting requirment is too weak and only transparency in individual salaries will shine the appropriate light on this problem and lead to sufficient outrage to change.

Leave a Reply