Tackling inequality, underrepresentation and discrimination in the workplace is something Sadiq Khan clearly takes very seriously – his own top team contains more women members than those of his predecessors and his new TfL board is a welcome departure from the ‘pale and male’ approach taken under Boris.
But as data published today shows, these two successes were very much the low-hanging fruit.
In his election manifesto the Mayor committed to conducting a ‘gender pay audit’ which he’s published today. The headline figures are terrible, in all but one of City Hall’s agencies there’s a huge gap between the average salaries earned by men and women.
But although it’s an issue I believe he really does care about, Sadiq’s press release unfortunately risks massively oversimplifying the issue – in it he says:
“It is unacceptable that in 2016 in London, the most progressive city in the world, that your gender determines how much you get paid and your career prospects.”
“I will remove any barriers to women by adopting the highest possible standards for fair pay, good working conditions and gender equality.”
Meanwhile Labour Assembly Member Fiona Twycross has issued the following statement:
“It is unacceptable that in a city as progressive as London the glass ceiling still very much exists, and that in 2016 women are still not being paid the same as men.”
From these comments you might get the impression that the gap is caused by unfair pay policies, with women workers deliberately paid less than their male counterparts. If this were true, the fix would quick and simple – though expensive – to implement.
But if you read down to the explanatory notes in the Mayor’s press release you’ll see that this isn’t the case. Here it is says:
“Salaries at the Greater London Authority are determined through a job evaluation scheme which evaluates the job and not the post holder. It makes no reference to gender or any other personal characteristics of existing or potential job holders. This means the GLA pays the same salary to roles of equal value.
“Differences in the figures do not show a difference in pay for roles of equal value but recognise the need for more female representation at the most senior levels of the organisation.”
This is true across the whole of the GLA group, including at the Met and TfL which have two of the largest pay gaps – they’re also organisations where the frontline has always been historically male dominated and where most of the staff with long, uninterrupted service records are men.
In both organisations, someone starting a new job today will be paid the same rate regardless of their gender.
But historic factors, such as special allowances paid in the Met to existing staff (more likely to be male) but no longer payable to new recruits, and the time taken to reacher higher operational grades, means average salaries to men are higher than average salaries to women.
Both organisations are working hard to recruit more woman but both are also shrinking their workforces, limiting scope for promotions and creating fewer entry-level opportunities.
On one hand Sadiq’s decision to axe whole tiers of (mostly male) TfL management will help close the pay gap within the organisation, but it’ll also create fewer opportunities for promotion for newer staff of any gender.
Closing the pay gap needs more women to apply for jobs historically seen as male roles, and for employers to reexamine their approach to promotions, especially when it comes to factoring in that woman are more likely than men to have a career break.
Tackling the under-representation and unequal distribution of women within a large workforce isn’t something you can fix with a press release or even in a single mayoral term.
Which is possibly why Team Khan shoved these issues down the bottom of a press release which offers no actual solutions and instead talked of “fair pay” while providing no evidence that pay rates within the agencies he now controls are in any way unfair.
Image shows Sadiq Khan with Deputy Mayor of London Joanne McCartney, one of seven woman appointed to his top team.