Tribepad’s Neil Armstrong investigates the causes and solutions to this pervasive problem of the gender pay gap in promotion and recruitment.

The gender pay gap has been a very hot topic, not just in the last decade but also right here right now in 2022. In March this year it was International Women’s Day, and a Gender Pay Gap Bot on Twitter was calling out companies who are and who aren’t exercising equal pay to their female employees, based on their #InternationalWomensDay posts. Companies are verbally supporting women but are visibly silent on matters of equal pay. How are we still talking about this? What could be in the way of distributing pay equally between men and women? When you do a little digging, some of the answers that arise blame not having the right skills or qualifications, but when you look deeper it seems to be female parents who are suffering the most.


Proactive action

At Tribepad we’ve launched a campaign; Stop the Bias, to get to the nitty gritty of the biases applicants feel exposed to in the recruitment process. The campaign looks at real-life candidate data, exploring the reasons people feel at risk of being discriminated against. We want to encourage our industry to take more proactive action to put an end to bias in recruitment. The Equality Act of 2010 was a landmark in employment history. It promised to end discrimination on the grounds of sex, race or disability. Yet 12 years later we are still talking about it, and still finding missing issues that need to be addressed.

More than a quarter of the 2,011 people we asked said they worried about the implications of their parental status on their recruitment prospects. Of this sample of UK adults, we found that Millennials worried the most about being a parent, or that being pregnant might affect their ability to secure a job or promotion. This is perhaps because employers see this generation as stereotypically prime ‘parenthood age’. In the past couple of years companies have had to adapt to the pandemic, with office workers working from home to keep businesses running. For parents there was a mixed response on whether this was a good move to help with childcare, or whether it had made working from home a lot more difficult.


Motherhood pay penalty

Looking beyond the working from home era, we should still question whether it’s right that mothers should accept lower wages when they create a family. This has been coined the “motherhood pay penalty”, referring to the financial gap between women who are mothers, and women who don’t have any children. Why is it that in 2022, mothers are still bearing the brunt of parenthood and childcare in early years? And how far does the motherhood pay penalty go to explain the wider, ongoing issue of the gender pay gap?

Beth, 27 from Sheffield shared her story with us in support of our campaign. She said “Since the pandemic my job has become remote, which has really helped with my son as I don’t have to pay or arrange for childcare. I can log off to pick Riley up, and log back in when I get home, I really like that flexibility.” Even though Beth feels like post-lockdown has opened up flexibility, she’s put off looking for other jobs. “I don’t think I’d look for another job just yet, especially if I couldn’t have the same flexibility. I’ll probably wait until he is older so I can look for full time jobs.” Beth’s story tells us that mums are still having to shelve their aspirations or put off going full time, even when working from home.


What is it like to be a parent in the recruitment process?

If it can take a global virus to show companies how easy it can be to cater for employees who have children, it should be possible to continue this moving forward. Arranging childcare so that both parents can bring in a decent income can be difficult to schedule, and also pay for. Our research showed that mums are twice as likely (15.9%) to worry about their parental status than dads (8.5%), which is likely down to more mums going part time to help with childcare.

We also spoke to Charlie, 26, and a mum of two from Portsmouth. She said: “I had an interview recently with a law firm, where I mentioned I had two kids and one of them is a one year old. It seemed like they were a bit put off by that fact, as they asked lots of questions on how it would affect my performance. I’m studying a law degree part time at the moment so I was going for a job as a part time legal assistant. I didn’t get good vibes throughout the interview, and the most ironic thing was that the interviewer was a woman.”

Parents, and especially mothers are getting grilled early on in the recruitment process. Rather than being judged on their skills and experience, they are being judged on having children and how that might affect their ability to do the job. This needs to change.


The gender pay gap: how can it be closed?

Aberdeen has the worst gender pay gap in the UK, with average male earnings a staggering £24,000 higher than those for women, according to job search company Adzuna. How can such enormous pay gaps be justified?

So what can we do to eliminate bias towards mothers? What can actually be done to close this pay gap? We can start by having fair company policies, pay transparency in job advertisements and creating anonymous applications early on in the recruitment process. Perhaps it’s also time for dads to step up in the workplace and be seen to be taking equal parenting responsibility.

Whilst the modern world has made efforts for fathers to be included in that early post-pregnancy stage, paternity leave isn’t positively embraced or understood in the majority workplace. Some companies are offering equal parental leave benefits which is beginning to change the landscape of paternity leave.


An equal parental leave policy

Four years ago, Aviva became one of the first UK employers to launch an equal parental leave policy, offering new parents in its UK business 12 months’ parental leave, with six months at full basic pay for both mums and dads. Since then, Aviva’s figures show the number of men and women now taking leave is almost equal. However, it’s still the mums that continue to take more time with an average of almost 44 weeks off, compared to just under 24 weeks for fathers.

Being a parent and husband myself, I can understand the desire and benefit to young children to spend more time with their mother while young. But does that mean it’s acceptable to pay women who are equally qualified and experienced less once they return to the workplace full time? No. It does not. Indeed, one of the UK government clauses of maternity leave is that the individual receives pay rises as if they were at work full time. So why do so many women find that they are left behind?


Equality, diversity and inclusion

Equality, diversity and inclusion is central to our philosophy of putting people first. Tribepad is used by more than 20 million people across the world, and we want to make sure that everyone has a fair and unbiased shot at any job, so we are implementing technology features that help. Some of Tribepad customers have had success by making the early application process blind, removing personal information and revealing diversity data until later stages in the recruitment process.

We need to improve this for the next generation. The days where mothers earn significantly less than women without children, and their male counterparts need to end. No woman should have to choose between having children and having a career that recognises her experience and qualifications fairly.


Neil Armstrong leads sales, marketing, account management and partnerships at Tribepad – an award-winning recruitment software business in Sheffield.