Every level of business holds gender inequality: FTSE boards to apprenticeships

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Every level of business holds gender inequality

From FTSE 100 boards to apprenticeships, gender equality persists throughout every level of business.

A report from the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) found that there is a gender pay gap for female apprenticeships of 6 per cent, which has almost doubled since 2016.

Back in July 2019, Cranfield University’s School of Management Female FTSE Board Report said that women are being appointed to board levels in FTSE 100 companies for “symbolic value” as they serve a shorter tenure than their male counterparts.

On average, non-executive female directors serve nearly four years (3.8) years compared to five years served by men.

There have been increases but Cranfield seems to hold the opinion that a lot more needs to be done. Women on boards in FTSE 100 companies have increased from 29 per cent to 32 per cent, whilst non-executive directors (NEDs) are at an all time high of 38.9 per cent. Still, the amount of female executives is low at 10.9 per cent.

It also found that female apprentices are more likely to be illegally paid less than the minimum wage, with just two in five receiving formal training as part of their apprenticeship compared to three in five men.

Male apprentices at level four which is equivalent to degree level, earn £13 an hour with female apprentices earning £12. Again male level three apprentices earn an average of £26,200 a year whereas female level three apprentices make just £16,600.

A third of female apprentices have been left in a situation where they have had to borrow money from friends or family to financially support themselves, whereas only a fifth of male apprentices had to do the same.

Amy Dowling, of the National Society of Apprentices, said:

The findings are a serious insight into the failings of the government’s approach to making sure all apprentices are paid what they are legally entitled to. If this report was about any other part of the workforce the response would be severe and far-reaching.

Agata Nowakowska, area vice president at Skillsoft said:

It’s clear that progress is being made towards pay equality for women, particularly in sectors open to public scrutiny. But this is barely the tip of the iceberg. In most industries, no matter the level, the gender pay gap is still prevalent and there is far more work to be done. The latest report from the Government’s Department for BEIS finds that female apprentices are being paid six per cent less and perhaps even illegally for that matter, this gender pay gap needs to be called out. One of the main challenges is both conscious and unconscious bias still permeate the workplace.

Conscious bias is much easier to call out with naming and shaming, but unconscious bias is much harder to address. Often it’s still hidden, and those holding it are completely unaware. Studies show that for many people in this situation, when their unconscious bias is demonstrated to them, they hate it – they can’t rationalise the prejudice they are displaying with their perception of their own behaviour. So what’s the solution? When unconscious bias is identified in an individual, we need to address it across the entire team to eradicate the behaviour.

This is true for any unconscious bias, from racism to remuneration inequality. Resolving the disparity in pay is complex and involves more than merely a number. Employers must ensure every employee has the opportunity to expand their role towards higher-paying positions. This could mean reviewing how your organisation views maternity and paternity leave, or facilitating professional development. Above all, it’s about making a continued, concerted effort; meaningful change cannot occur overnight.

However, in November 2019, it was reported that the number of female board positions at FTSE 100 and 250 companies is increasing, it is the FTSE 350 businesses that are “lagging” behind.

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