New research shows pay transparency can help pave the way to gender pay equality

by Charlotte Adamson, Chair of Women in Public Affairs & Account Director

Last week, the Women in Public Affairs (WIPA) network which I chair launched the results of its latest industry survey, which focused on issues around women’s progression, pay transparency and parental leave policies.

This is the third industry survey that WIPA have run, and the results still make for sobering reading. Some areas are (slowly) improving, but other key metrics are getting worse.

The survey found that nine in ten women find publishing salary bands and the gender pay gap important practices for the industry (92% and 90% respectively); however, only 26% of public affairs professionals say their companies currently publish salary bands.

Nine in ten (87%) women in public affairs are less likely to respond to a job advertisement if it doesn’t show salary bands. The desire to see salary bands published is only increasing – this was up by 14% since our first survey in 2019. With only 26% of companies publishing salary bands, this means that three quarters of the industry are potentially missing out on top tier female talent.

The survey also found that women working in public affairs don’t feel they are paid the same as their male colleagues. Thirty-five per cent of women believe pay differs for men and women at the same level in their business, with the number rising to over 40% in larger companies with 50+ employees.

Fifty-eight per cent of respondents have experienced discrimination at work, most commonly based on their gender or age, and only 13% think the industry is good at helping women progress, with half feeling they face greater barriers than men. More women think the industry is poor at helping women to progress than they did when we asked the question in 2020. It is discouraging to see that there has been no progress here in the last few years.

Sixty-two per cent of women working in public affairs do not know their company’s maternity policy well. With only 30% feeling comfortable asking about this in an interview, it is clear that this information gap is impacting women’s ability to make informed choices when they move roles. The better news is that, among those who claim they do know their maternity policy, 72% said that the offering was above statutory level.

Lastly, men still dominate senior roles in public affairs. Forty three per cent of respondents work in organisations with an all-male senior management team, with some respondents telling us they felt that leadership remains very homogenous and that women must work twice as hard as men to prove themselves capable of holding these roles. Diversity in the senior ranks matters, as women need to be able to look up in an organisation and see figures that look like them. We risk alienating half the workforce if this doesn’t change.

The sector needs to take action to demonstrate that it is an industry in which women can thrive and flourish. We talk a lot about transparency in public affairs, and while the industry has been so focused on the reputational damage caused by poor ethical practices, it needs to also consider how a lack of transparency on salaries and parental leave policies also poses a reputational risk.

So, what can employers do? WIPA is calling on senior leaders to set out timescales for when they will publish salary bands [this has kicked off a discussion at Cicero/amo with agreement that we, along with the public affairs industry more generally, should be moving towards greater transparency on pay bands]. We will also be launching an inquiry into pay transparency and urge businesses to engage with this. Consideration should also be given to best practice around communicating parental leave policies, including proactively doing so in any recruitment process. Greater transparency on both these points will not only give employers a benefit in terms of attracting female applicants, but also goes a long way towards signifying the culture of the workplace.

You can read more information on WIPA’s survey here, and the full report here.

This article appeared in the Cicero/amo February 2022 newsletter.

Charlotte Adamson

Account Director