Taking action on our gender pay gap
29 March 2022
Today, the University has published its Gender Pay Gap Report for 2021. This represents a snapshot of data taken on 31 March 2021.
The headline figure doesn’t look brilliant, and taking the figures from the reports for 2020 and 2021, we are going in the wrong direction. The mean gender pay gap between men and women is 22.07%, up from 20.64% in 2020. This is clearly not the kind of movement we wanted to see, although as I explain below, there are some nuances which are worth highlighting.
As the University executive board champion for sex equality, I am determined that we will reverse this trend, and narrow our gender pay gap. I am therefore overseeing a number of projects that will help this.
Fundamentally, the University promotes the fair treatment of all employees and is committed to understanding and addressing any significant factors contributing to the gender pay gap.
It is important to understand what the gender pay gap actually represents, and that it is different to ‘equal pay’. The gender pay gap is a high-level snapshot of pay and shows the difference in the average earnings of men and women, at all levels, across an organisation. Equal pay is about ensuring that men and women are paid equally for carrying out the same work. Equal pay for work of equal value is a legal requirement and the University has robust processes in place to ensure we meet our obligations fully.
In many organisations, including at the University, the gender pay gap reflects occupational segregation. This means we have a larger proportion of women in the lower pay ranges, and a higher proportion of men in the upper pay ranges. This is an issue we are already trying to address with initiatives to get more women into senior roles. For example, we have reviewed our promotion procedures for academic staff in recent years, increasing applications for promotions across all staff, and leading to better success rates, particularly among women. Currently we are doing better than the Higher Education sector as a whole – 37% of our Professors and 51% of our Associate Professors are female. By 2026, we aim to have at least a 45% female professoriate.
There are other reasons why our gender pay gap appears high. You may know that at Reading we directly employ the majority of our staff, rather than paying external contractors, who might employ staff on less favourable pay and conditions. We believe this is the right thing to do – and as one University community, all working towards common goals, we can achieve and benefit more together. But this inclusive approach does make these statistics more difficult.
We also operate an in-house temporary staffing service, called Campus Jobs. This provides valuable opportunities for students and other temporary workers to gain work experience with the University. Most other universities don’t run such a service, but as these jobs are included in our gender pay gap reporting and tend to attract more women than men, it increases the gender pay gap between Reading and other universities. Without Campus Jobs workers, our mean gender pay gap would be 18%.
While the gender pay gap is only a snapshot, designed to provide a consistent picture across all organisations in the UK of vastly varying types, it does indicate an issue that we should address. I have already started an informal conversation with some colleagues in the Staff Forum with regards to addressing the gender pay gap in grades 1-5, and this will continue with the entire group in the coming months. And as part of our updated People Plan we are exploring further opportunities to support those colleagues in lower grades who want to progress at the University. These will have a positive impact on workplace opportunities for all colleagues, and especially for female members of staff. I look forward to sharing more on this work in the near future.
We have institutional targets to address gender imbalances in the take-up of leadership roles – targets that have already led to positive developments for women in senior positions at the University. We are committed to renew our Silver Athena SWAN Charter Mark by 2026. And we will also continue to support women’s development through the Aurora programme, among other projects that support women’s careers at our University.
While I know that many of you will be disappointed by our stubborn gender pay gap, as am I, I am confident that we have strong plans in place to change direction.