The gender pay gap data more than 10,000 UK organisations were compelled to divulge by 5 April 2018 has been criticised in some quarters for sparking a string of misleading headlines.
But could the new law - and the debate it has stirred up - turn out to be a catalyst for historic change when it comes to gender equality and diversity in our industry and others?
One of the largest firms in the UK IT reseller market, Softcat, certainly seems to think so.
Softcat said it would use its gender pay gap report - which revealed a 19 per cent median pay gap - as a "springboard to positively affect our gender pay and provoke change within our business".
It was a similar story among the other 34 top UK IT resellers, MSPs and consultancies whose gender pay gap reports CRN has analysed.
Many outlined not only their raw pay gap data, but also the actions they are taking to address gender pay and diversity in their organisations. One reseller talked about rolling out "unconscious bias training", another said it would initiate a "career break returner" programme, and a third said it would ensure it writes gender-neutral job postings. Countless others talked of their efforts to boost outreach to schools or make their apprenticeship schemes more attractive to women.
Under the government's Gender Pay Gap legislation, roughly 10,000 UK organisations were compelled to publish a snapshot of their gender pay gap by 5 April 2018.
As many of the resellers included in this research were at pains to point out, a gender pay gap is not the same as equal pay. Indeed, many stressed that they pay men and women equally for similar jobs.
The issue lies in the fact that women are often under-represented in senior leadership roles, as well as higher-paid technical and sales roles.
But it is still illuminating that the average median pay gap in the IT reseller industry appears to be significantly above the national average of 18.4 per cent.
We were able to locate pay gap data for 35 of the 36 firms in Top VARs that have 300 or more staff (we drew the line at 300 to avoid cases where headcount may have shrunk below 250). The full table can be viewed at the bottom of this article.
Among these firms, the average median pay gap - ie how much less the middle-earning female employee is paid than their middle-earning male counterpart on an hourly basis (as at 4 April 2017) - stood at 23.0 per cent, and ranged from 7.3 per cent to 50 per cent. Only two Top VARs - RM Education and AVMI - had a median pay gap in single digits.
"Whenever I go to an executive meeting it is full of males like me, which is really poor for the industry, both from the talent pool we are picking into, and the diversity of thought," Martin Hellawell, Softcat
It was a similar story when looking at the mean pay gap, which stood at an average of 23.5 per cent, and ranged from 9.4 per cent to 39 per cent.
If the IT channel is lagging behind UK averages, this is not being helped by the dearth of females in higher-paid executive posts in the industry (recent CRN research suggests just 14 per cent of top executive roles at the UK's top 50 resellers are held by women). Men are also disproportionately represented in sales roles, which often have a higher earning capacity through uncapped commissions.
But the resellers we looked at roundly rejected any suggestion of gender pay inequality.
Telent, for instance, said there "is no pattern of men and women being paid differently for doing the same jobs at the same level" across its organisation, while Chess said it "delivers equal pay for men and women doing equal jobs".
Newcastle-based TSG, which had one of the highest gender pay gaps of the firms we looked at, echoed this sentiment when attempting to explain its wage delta.
"When you drill into the detail at TSG of the 127 roles contained within the reportable data, 21 have a split of both male and female employees," it said. "Of these 21 roles, over half show a gender pay gap within those roles in favour of women. Generally, the differences are within 15 per cent either way and in the couple of instances where a larger gap exists, there are understandable reasons which have now been addressed."
Instead, many of the firms we looked at presented their pay gaps as a function of the lack of female staff in executive, technical and sales roles, which tend to pay the most.
Tackling the problem
The mere act of publishing this data has, however, prompted action in the area of gender pay and gender diversity, with many firms pledging to close their pay gap by boosting their focus on diversity.
To take a few examples, RM said it was introducing an unconscious bias training module for its managers as part of its efforts to ensure a balanced workforce and support a reduction in its gender pay gap, which was actually the lowest of all 35 firms looked at.
Insight said it will initiate a ‘Career Break Returner' programme, as well as ensuring diversity on appointment panels.
Redcentric said it is currently finalising an apprenticeship programme designed to make technical apprenticeships more attractive to females.
The UK's largest reseller, Computacenter, meanwhile, unveiled a raft of ways in which it is aiming to improve its gender balance. It pointed out that its median gender pay gap - at 13.6 per cent - is better than the national median as well as that of the technology industry as a whole - but added "we want our gap to reduce".
Over the last year, Computacenter has made improvements to what it pays staff on maternity and adoption leave, and made changes that guarantee commission levels for those returning from maternity or adoption leave in sales, it said in its pay gap report. It has also held ‘Women in Sales' events, and said it held over 190 events and workshops in 2017 as part of its efforts to promote IT as a career for all students.
Some firms are even introducing quotas, with Avanade listing having 30 per cent of hires be female as one of its goals, alongside adopting gender-neutral job postings. Capita, meanwhile, said it is targeting 30 per cent of its board members to be female through its membership of the ‘30% Club'.
Of the 35 firms we looked at, 14 also divulged the gender split of their organisation. Females made up, on average, 25.4 per cent of the workforce, with figures ranging from 34 per cent - in the case of Timico - to just 10 per cent - in the case of cybersecurity specialist NCC Group (see graphic, below). The latter said it was sponsoring external initiatives aimed at addressing gender imbalances, such as Cyber First, as well as enhancing maternity and paternity policies.
Softcat chairman Martin Hellawell said in Softcat's gender pay gap report that he had a "clear focus on increasing the number of women in senior roles and across the entire business, fulfilling our drive to reduce the gender pay gap".
Talking to CRN last month, Hellawell urged the industry to "pool its resources" to tackle the issue.
"Whenever I go to an executive meeting it is full of males like me, which is really poor for the industry, both from the talent pool we are picking into, and the diversity of thought," he said.
"It's going to take a long time to move that in the right direction and somehow we need to pool resources. We [Softcat] have to get a lot better as we are not great in this area ourselves, but unfortunately - for whatever reason - women do not seem to be attracted to installing a 3PAR datacentre array in Darlington at 8am on a Monday morning. It's difficult to get applicants for people in those technical positions, and actually that whole new business development area as well.
"We don't have enough women in that side of the business either. They can be excellent - in the last 10 years, three of our top salespeople in Softcat have been women. There's no doubt they can absolutely do it, we just don't have enough of them joining us in the first place."
Though the government's Gender Pay Gap legislation has been criticised in some circles, it is clear that the act of reporting these numbers has galvanised firms in our industry to up their game on diversity.
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