During my time working at the institute of equality and diversity professionals I would see new posts pop up on a daily basis about the Gender pay gap. Even outside of the Diversity and Inclusion bubble many of us are aware of the push for recruitment reforms, whether you look in the private or public sector, conversation surrounding the gender pay gap won’t be far off. On the other hand, articles about the ethnicity pay gap are very few and far between, despite the fact that in some organisations the ethnicity pay gap is just as substantial as the gender pay gap i.e. PwC with 12.8 and 13.7 percent wage gaps respectively, based on 2017 figures.
Despite some people believing that diversity and inclusion are nothing more than ‘buzzwords’ with little substance, we have seen some change particularly when it comes to the gender pay gap. In April 2017 it became mandatory for organisations with more than 250 employers to publish their figures comparing men and women’s average pay, with the hope that pay transparency will shame companies into implementing the appropriate policy changes. This and other practices such as appointments of a diversity manager, moving towards skills based assessments and making it mandatory to include at least one woman in a recruitment and promotion shortlists are helping to reduce the wage gap.
These are all great practices, however, data shows that recruitment practices aren’t the main cause of the wage gap between genders, but actually the biological differences between men and women. In the Netflix show ‘Explained: Why women are paid less’ they reveal that the wage gap between men and women only begins to occur once a woman decides to become a mother. If a woman decides not to have children, then the gender wage gap is significantly less. Therefore, there is a wage penalty attached to being a mother and the actual prejudice between men and women in being hired and getting promotions is very small – gender discrimination is not experienced.
The difference with the ethnicity pay gap is that it stems from unconscious bias, which is a very hard issue to tackle. In an article by the independent it states that the ethnicity pay gap occurs mainly due to the fact that ethnic minorities are less likely to be promoted into senior management or even management positions. The reality is that it’s in our nature to gravitate towards people that are similar to ourselves – the saying birds of a feather flock together comes to mind – this fact remains true for hiring managers. If a white, private school educated, Oxbridge graduate is making a hiring decision, they are more likely to hire or promote someone from the same background. It’s highly likely that the same person who was hired will go on and repeat this when it is their time to hire or promote someone and the cycle continues.
Similar policies used to address the gender pay gap have been recommended for tackling the ethnicity wage gap. However, I feel more needs to be done to remove bias in recruitment and promotional decisions. I wrote an article called ‘Why I changed my name’ which details the account of a black man choosing to change his name from one which is ethnic sounding to an English name to increase his career prospects. Name bias is a real thing and it outlines the basic issue with today’s recruitment practices. Maybe personal information should be removed altogether to ensure that people are only being assessed on their skills and experiences? I’m not 100% sure on the answer, but what I am sure on is that companies need to be doing more to highlight and address the Ethnicity Pay Gap.