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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The tale of Battersea power station shows how affordable housing is lost

Initially, the developers promised 636 affordable homes. Now, they have reduced the number to 386. 

It’s the most predictable trick in the big book of property development. A developer signs an agreement with a local council promising to provide a barely acceptable level of barely affordable housing, then slashes these commitments at the first, second and third signs of trouble. It’s happened all over the country, from Hastings to Cumbria. But it happens most often in London, and most recently of all at Battersea power station, the Thames landmark and long-time London ruin which I wrote about in my 2016 book, Up In Smoke: The Failed Dreams of Battersea Power Station. For decades, the power station was one of London’s most popular buildings but now it represents some of the most depressing aspects of the capital’s attempts at regeneration. Almost in shame, the building itself has started to disappear from view behind a curtain of ugly gold-and-glass apartments aimed squarely at the international rich. The Battersea power station development is costing around £9bn. There will be around 4,200 flats, an office for Apple and a new Tube station. But only 386 of the new flats will be considered affordable

What makes the Battersea power station development worse is the developer’s argument for why there are so few affordable homes, which runs something like this. The bottom is falling out of the luxury homes market because too many are being built, which means developers can no longer afford to build the sort of homes that people actually want. It’s yet another sign of the failure of the housing market to provide what is most needed. But it also highlights the delusion of politicians who still seem to believe that property developers are going to provide the answers to one of the most pressing problems in politics.

A Malaysian consortium acquired the power station in 2012 and initially promised to build 517 affordable units, which then rose to 636. This was pretty meagre, but with four developers having already failed to develop the site, it was enough to satisfy Wandsworth council. By the time I wrote Up In Smoke, this had been reduced back to 565 units – around 15 per cent of the total number of new flats. Now the developers want to build only 386 affordable homes – around 9 per cent of the final residential offering, which includes expensive flats bought by the likes of Sting and Bear Grylls. 

The developers say this is because of escalating costs and the technical challenges of restoring the power station – but it’s also the case that the entire Nine Elms area between Battersea and Vauxhall is experiencing a glut of similar property, which is driving down prices. They want to focus instead on paying for the new Northern Line extension that joins the power station to Kennington. The slashing of affordable housing can be done without need for a new planning application or public consultation by using a “deed of variation”. It also means Mayor Sadiq Khan can’t do much more than write to Wandsworth urging the council to reject the new scheme. There’s little chance of that. Conservative Wandsworth has been committed to a developer-led solution to the power station for three decades and in that time has perfected the art of rolling over, despite several excruciating, and occasionally hilarious, disappointments.

The Battersea power station situation also highlights the sophistry developers will use to excuse any decision. When I interviewed Rob Tincknell, the developer’s chief executive, in 2014, he boasted it was the developer’s commitment to paying for the Northern Line extension (NLE) that was allowing the already limited amount of affordable housing to be built in the first place. Without the NLE, he insisted, they would never be able to build this number of affordable units. “The important point to note is that the NLE project allows the development density in the district of Nine Elms to nearly double,” he said. “Therefore, without the NLE the density at Battersea would be about half and even if there was a higher level of affordable, say 30 per cent, it would be a percentage of a lower figure and therefore the city wouldn’t get any more affordable than they do now.”

Now the argument is reversed. Because the developer has to pay for the transport infrastructure, they can’t afford to build as much affordable housing. Smart hey?

It’s not entirely hopeless. Wandsworth may yet reject the plan, while the developers say they hope to restore the missing 250 units at the end of the build.

But I wouldn’t hold your breath.

This is a version of a blog post which originally appeared here.

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