Gender pay gap reporting has created a welcome debate on the issue of pay equality in our society but, unfortunately, some of the contributions, in many cases from those who should have known better, have created more heat than light and have been noteworthy chiefly for their lack of understanding of what the statistics actually demonstrate.

To be clear, the gender pay gap that exists is wrong. There is no legitimate reason for anyone to be paid less than a colleague performing identical work or for them to rise to a higher position in an organisation simply by reason of gender or, for that matter, for any other reason not based on experience or performance.

But it has been illegal for men and women to be paid differently for doing the same work since the Equal Pay Act in 1974. The gender pay gaps reported by so many of the major employers in our society have been taken as evidence that these organisations are breaking the law, with politicians threatening sanctions and fines for companies that do not close their gender pay gap.

The gender gap, however, represents a failure in our society to make the most of the talents and skills of us all. It is a failure to create conditions in which each member of our society can contribute, as Karl Marx put it “according to his ability”, or, more accurately in this case, according to his or her ability. A cynic might suggest that it is a blatant attempt by politicians and thought leaders to shift the blame for their own failures onto employers.

Jul-Sep 2018 Issue

ICSA: The Governance Institute