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

Photo: Getty Images
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I'm far from convinced by Cameron's plans for Syria

The Prime Minister has a plan for when the bombs drop. But what about after?

In the House of Commons today, the Prime Minister set out a powerful case for Britain to join air strikes against Isil in Syria.  Isil, he argued, poses a direct threat to Britain and its people, and Britain should not be in the business of “outsourcing our security to our allies”. And while he conceded that further airstrikes alone would not be sufficient to beat Isil, he made the case for an “Isil first” strategy – attacking Isil now, while continuing to do what we can diplomatically to help secure a lasting settlement for Syria in which Assad (eventually) plays no part.

I agreed with much of David Cameron’s analysis. And no-one should doubt either the murderous barbarism of Isil in the region, or the barbarism they foment and inspire in others across the world.  But at the end of his lengthy Q&A session with MPs, I remained unconvinced that UK involvement in airstrikes in Syria was the right option. Because the case for action has to be a case for action that has a chance of succeeding.  And David Cameron’s case contained neither a plan for winning the war, nor a plan for winning the peace.

The Prime Minister, along with military experts and analysts across the world, concedes that air strikes alone will not defeat Isil, and that (as in Iraq) ground forces are essential if we want to rid Syria of Isil. But what is the plan to assemble these ground forces so necessary for a successful mission?  David Cameron’s answer today was more a hope than a plan. He referred to “70,000 Syrian opposition fighters - principally the Free Syrian Army (FSA) – with whom we can co-ordinate attacks on Isil”.

But it is an illusion to think that these fighters can provide the ground forces needed to complement aerial bombardment of Isil.  Many commentators have begun to doubt whether the FSA continues to exist as a coherent operational entity over the past few months. Coralling the myriad rebel groups into a disciplined force capable of fighting and occupying Isil territory is a heroic ambition, not a plan. And previous efforts to mobilize the rebels against Isil have been utter failures. Last month the Americans abandoned a $500m programme to train and turn 5,400 rebel fighters into a disciplined force to fight Isil. They succeeded in training just 60 fighters. And there have been incidents of American-trained fighters giving some of their US-provided equipment to the Nusra Front, an affiliate of Al Qaeda.

Why has it proven so hard to co-opt rebel forces in the fight against Isil? Because most of the various rebel groups are fighting a war against Assad, not against Isil.  Syria’s civil war is gruesome and complex, but it is fundamentally a Civil War between Assad’s forces and a variety of opponents of Assad’s regime. It would be a mistake for Britain to base a case for military action against Isil on the hope that thousands of disparate rebel forces can be persuaded to change their enemy – especially when the evidence so far is that they won’t.

This is a plan for military action that, at present, looks highly unlikely to succeed.  But what of the plan for peace? David Cameron today argued for the separation of the immediate task at hand - to strike against Isil in Syria – from the longer-term ambition of achieving a settlement in Syria and removing Assad.  But for Isil to be beaten, the two cannot be separated. Because it is only by making progress in developing a credible and internationally-backed plan for a post-Assad Syria that we will persuade Syrian Sunnis that fighting Isil will not end up helping Assad win the Civil War.  If we want not only to rely on rebel Sunnis to provide ground troops against Isil, but also provide stable governance in Isil-occupied areas when the bombing stops, progress on a settlement to Syria’s Civil War is more not less urgent.  Without it, the reluctance of Syrian Sunnis to think that our fight is their fight will undermine the chances of military efforts to beat Isil and bring basic order to the regions they control. 

This points us towards doubling down on the progress that has already been made in Vienna: working with the USA, France, Syria’s neighbours and the Gulf states, as well as Russia and Iran. We need not just a combined approach to ending the conflict, but the prospect of a post-war Syria that offers a place for those whose cooperation we seek to defeat Isil. No doubt this will strike some as insufficient in the face of the horrors perpetrated by Isil. But I fear that if we want not just to take action against Isil but to defeat them and prevent their return, it offers a better chance of succeeding than David Cameron’s proposal today. 

Stewart Wood is a former Shadow Cabinet minister and adviser to Ed Miliband. He tweets as @StewartWood.