Barley blog: Jobs for the girls

Well hello and a very happy International Women’s Day to you.  Isn’t it a joy to be a working woman in 2017, now we’ve sorted out all that nasty sexual inequality that our mothers and grandmothers fought so hard against?

Not buying it?  Me neither.

Earlier this month the CIPR issued their latest report on the State of the Profession, which contains some interesting insights on gender.  The male/female balance in the PR industry is shifting, but women still make up 61% of the workforce and the CIPR found the average difference between male and female earnings is £12,316.  It could be argued that some of this difference is because there are more men in senior roles, making the issue a mix of a pay and progression gap.

The next bit is where the statistician in me got really interested – these figures were then subjected to regression analysis that took into account other factors that might impact salary, such as years in PR and seniority.  This revealed a true gender pay gap in PR, in other words the gap that cannot be explained by any of the other factors tested for in the survey, of £5,784.  That’s right, nearly £6k of pay gap purely down to not having the right pants filling.  Tough break ladies.

Here’s my punt as to what lies behind some of this.  I’d make a reasonably sizeable bet on a whole heap of discrimination against working mums.  I daresay much of this is not intentional, but I’ve certainly seen plenty of bias, conscious or otherwise, against this group.

In my former life in finance and HR, I spent many years on boards discussing pay reviews and promotions, often when budgets were tight and tough decisions had to be made.  I’ve hardly ever heard a man’s family situation discussed in relation to a pay rise, other than an odd occasion when it’s been suggested that his getting married or having children might mean we needed to give him a bit more money.

With women, my experience is that it’s the exact opposite.  Male and female colleagues alike have often been heard to utter that dreadful phrase “she’s not going anywhere” just before the woman in question gets knocked off of the pay rise list or, worse still, finds her way onto the redundancy list.

And good luck to those women who choose to work part time.  Many’s the occasion I’ve had to explain that pro-rating a full time salary down to part-time does not involve taking the figure you would pay a full-time man in the same role, adjusting it for the number of days a woman works and then knocking a chunk off because you feel you can get away with it.

When James and I set up Barley, the first two people who joined us as Associates were the utterly brilliant Laura Harrison and Sarah Skinner.  Both had taken time out with their young children and were now ready to get stuck back in to work.  Both did fantastic work before they went on maternity leave and continue to do so now.  We’re lucky to have them as part of team Barley and the same can be said for all of the other working parents we have the pleasure of working with.

Maybe both being parents ourselves makes a difference to our viewpoint.  Maybe it helps that we don’t have an office, which means we have more flexibility around hours worked once you cut out the need for a regular commute.  There’s no real advantage to having one in this day and age, when we can easily connect with our team and clients whenever and wherever we like, without the need for a cumbersome cost base that needs to be reflected in unnecessarily high fees.

It seems to me that a very simple way to tackle the oft reported talent crisis in our industry would be to value our working mums more.  Those brilliant women who’ve invested years in honing their skills and experience certainly don’t become any less valuable when you layer in all those extra time-management and negotiation skills you acquire when you become a parent.

If there’s one place we could start, maybe it’s with the phrase: working mum.  It drives me a bit nuts.  How many men have you ever heard referred to as a working dad?  I’d suggest banning its use when discussing pay could go some way to evening things out.

Sam Williams, Partner, Barley Communications