Whatever the reasons for the gender gap in CEO pay, it needs to change

It’s the eternal pink and blue divide.

It’s the eternal pink and blue divide. The corporate gender pay gap in the UK and for that matter across the globe has been heavily debated and there are myriad opinions around why men get more hefty pay packages than women and, more importantly, why men hold most of the top jobs in the industry.

The divide has come into focus again with results of a new salary research by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) revealing that men actually earn £141,500 more in bonuses than women doing the same role over the course of a working life.

According to the CMI research of 43,000 managers, male executives, on an average, get double the amount of bonus in comparison to women, with extra payments standing at £6,442 in 2012 compared with £3,029. Women directors' average bonus is £36,270, while men receive £63,700, and at more senior levels, the pay gap for both basic and bonuses increase, according to CMI.

There is no doubt that there are more male executives holding top jobs with fat salaries than there are women doing the same in the UK. Only last month a proposal by the Conservative Women's Forum, a group of female MPs investigating why too few women rise to the top of Britain's companies, said stats on the number of women firms employ at each level, the number of employees promoted by gender and the average pay gap at each rank, should be made public if "Britain is ever to get to the bottom of its "women's problem" in business".

However the problems aggravating the pay gap between the sexes are, at one level, rudimentary and age old. Societal biases and just a leak in the women talent pool are the real problems here, as they have been for decades.

A recent Harvard study of workplace ambitions showed fewer women aspire to top jobs than men. According to CMI, at junior levels, women actually earn £989 more than men on average and make up 64.3 per cent of the proportion of staff. But by middle management they fall behind both in terms of salary and representation, receiving £1,760 less than men and filling less than 44.3 per cent of the roles.

Childcare and family life – both of which women have been critisised for prioritising over their work lives – are basic realities that do exist and even may push the mentality that men will be more dedicated to the professional demands of a company in comparison to women who have a home to run. Also the maternity leave periods often become gaps in women’s career roadmaps. 

Things have gotten better over the years though. A Pew Research Center study released in June revealed that 23 per cent of women earn more than their husbands, up from 4 per cent who did in 1960. According to a survey carried out by Southampton University recently, the few female chief executives at FTSE 350 companies are paid on average £1.8m, compared to £1.3m for men, and the close links between performance and pay at public companies suggested that women bosses were delivering better results. The study also found that female chief executive pay had gone up by 9.3pc per year on average over the last five years, compared to 5.1 per cent for men.

Golablly, we have the likes of Indra Nooyi, Chairman and CEO, PepsiCo, Marissa Mayer, CEO, Yahoo, Ginni Rometty, President and CEO, IBM, Anne Sweeney, Co-Chair, Disney Media Networks, and President , Disney/ABC Television Group, Safra Catz, President and CFO, Oracle, Ursula Burns, Chairman and CEO, Xerox, to name some heavyweights who are turning the tide.

However the fact that when Beyonce sings "all the honeys makin’ money…throw your hands up at me" we can actually pick out names from a women-power-list of those who can wave back is the worrying bit. When it comes to men, that’s not a practical thought.

In the UK particularly, although women who run public companies may earn more than their male counterparts, they definitely represent a minority. Women only account for 5.6 per cent of executive directorships, despite the government target of 25 per cent. In fact Boardwatch UK recorded the first fall in the percentage of women on company boards, earlier in the year, since the figures were first complied in 1999.

As long as there are biases and "dirty old men" at share holder meetings telling the likes of Marissa Mayer that they are attractive instead of anything related to the job they do, or there are stereotypes that women will always prioritise family life over their jobs, women gaining positions of real power on the corporate ladder is going to be slow. The ladies need to be more proactive themselves about where their career trajectory is going, how their salaries and job descriptions compare to their male counterparts and they must speak up when it comes to getting a bonus or promotion if there is a valid case for it. They have to be the change they want to see. That maybe a cliché but there’s a reason why cliché’s are true.

On the other hand perceptions too need to change. A female or male boss is irrelevant when he or she is the best person to do the job and that’s how companies must approach their employees, alongside also actively working towards bridging a lopsided gender employment scale. Even after that, we may not end up with identical labour market outcomes for men and women. It will be of crucial importance then how the labour market rewards different types of work. 

Just recently, Bank of England Governor Mark Carney admitted to a “striking lack of top female economists” and pledged to create a pool of candidates for its rate-setting committee who will eventually become good enough to be the first female governor in the Bank’s 300-year history. He said the Bank has to “grow” top female economists all the way through the ranks. That attitude will go a long way in terms of awareness and equality. I’m with Carney.

I'm with Carney. Photograph: Getty Images

Meghna Mukerjee is a reporter at Retail Banker International

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Find the EU renegotiation demands dull? Me too – but they are important

It's an old trick: smother anything in enough jargon and you can avoid being held accountable for it.

I don’t know about you, but I found the details of Britain’s European Union renegotiation demands quite hard to read. Literally. My eye kept gliding past them, in an endless quest for something more interesting in the paragraph ahead. It was as if the word “subsidiarity” had been smeared in grease. I haven’t felt tedium quite like this since I read The Lord of the Rings and found I slid straight past anything written in italics, reasoning that it was probably another interminable Elvish poem. (“The wind was in his flowing hair/The foam about him shone;/Afar they saw him strong and fair/Go riding like a swan.”)

Anyone who writes about politics encounters this; I call it Subclause Syndrome. Smother anything in enough jargon, whirr enough footnotes into the air, and you have a very effective shield for protecting yourself from accountability – better even than gutting the Freedom of Information laws, although the government seems quite keen on that, too. No wonder so much of our political conversation ends up being about personality: if we can’t hope to master all the technicalities, the next best thing is to trust the person to whom we have delegated that job.

Anyway, after 15 cups of coffee, three ice-bucket challenges and a bottle of poppers I borrowed from a Tory MP, I finally made it through. I didn’t feel much more enlightened, though, because there were notable omissions – no mention, thankfully, of rolling back employment protections – and elsewhere there was a touching faith in the power of adding “language” to official documents.

One thing did stand out, however. For months, we have been told that it is a terrible problem that migrants from Europe are sending child benefit to their families back home. In future, the amount that can be claimed will start at zero and it will reach full whack only after four years of working in Britain. Even better, to reduce the alleged “pull factor” of our generous in-work benefits regime, the child benefit rate will be paid on a ratio calculated according to average wages in the home country.

What a waste of time. At the moment, only £30m in child benefit is sent out of the country each year: quite a large sum if you’re doing a whip round for a retirement gift for a colleague, but basically a rounding error in the Department for Work and Pensions budget.

Only 20,000 workers, and 34,000 children, are involved. And yet, apparently, this makes it worth introducing 28 different rates of child benefit to be administered by the DWP. We are given to understand that Iain Duncan Smith thinks this is barmy – and this is a man optimistic enough about his department’s computer systems to predict in 2013 that 4.46 million people would be claiming Universal Credit by now*.

David Cameron’s renegotiation package was comprised exclusively of what Doctor Who fans call handwavium – a magic substance with no obvious physical attributes, which nonetheless helpfully advances the plot. In this case, the renegotiation covers up the fact that the Prime Minister always wanted to argue to stay in Europe, but needed a handy fig leaf to do so.

Brace yourself for a sentence you might not read again in the New Statesman, but this makes me feel sorry for Chris Grayling. He and other Outers in the cabinet have to wait at least two weeks for Cameron to get the demands signed off; all the while, Cameron can subtly make the case for staying in Europe, while they are bound to keep quiet because of collective responsibility.

When that stricture lifts, the high-ranking Eurosceptics will at last be free to make the case they have been sitting on for years. I have three strong beliefs about what will happen next. First, that everyone confidently predicting a paralysing civil war in the Tory ranks is doing so more in hope than expectation. Some on the left feel that if Labour is going to be divided over Trident, it is only fair that the Tories be split down the middle, too. They forget that power, and patronage, are strong solvents: there has already been much muttering about low-level blackmail from the high command, with MPs warned about the dire influence of disloyalty on their career prospects.

Second, the Europe campaign will feature large doses of both sides solemnly advising the other that they need to make “a positive case”. This will be roundly ignored. The Remain team will run a fear campaign based on job losses, access to the single market and “losing our seat at the table”; Leave will run a fear campaign based on the steady advance of whatever collective noun for migrants sounds just the right side of racist. (Current favourite: “hordes”.)

Third, the number of Britons making a decision based on a complete understanding of the renegotiation, and the future terms of our membership, will be vanishingly small. It is simply impossible to read about subsidiarity for more than an hour without lapsing into a coma.

Yet, funnily enough, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Just as the absurd complexity of policy frees us to talk instead about character, so the onset of Subclause Syndrome in the EU debate will allow us to ask ourselves a more profound, defining question: what kind of country do we want Britain to be? Polling suggests that very few of us see ourselves as “European” rather than Scottish, or British, but are we a country that feels open and looks outwards, or one that thinks this is the best it’s going to get, and we need to protect what we have? That’s more vital than any subclause. l

* For those of you keeping score at home, Universal Credit is now allegedly going to be implemented by 2021. Incidentally, George Osborne has recently discovered that it’s a great source of handwavium; tax credit cuts have been postponed because UC will render such huge savings that they aren’t needed.

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.

This article first appeared in the 11 February 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The legacy of Europe's worst battle