In light of International Women’s Day, our editor Yessi Bello Perez spoke to EY’s Sue Robinson about gender pay gap reporting and diversity in the workplace.

Q: What is gender pay gap reporting?

Gender pay gap reporting is really important at the moment because it is a legal requirement for employers to make a report by the 4th of April 2018. What they need to report is if there are any disparities between male and female pay.

Q: What’s the difference between gender pay gap reporting and equal pay?

There’s been a lot of confusion in the press recently. Gender pay is all about making sure that, broadly speaking, men and women of the same grade get paid the same. Equal pay is looking more at the job. So, if you have a man and woman in the same job, you need to make sure that they are paid the equivalent rates. So, it’s pay versus job.

Q: You mentioned there’s a reporting deadline coming up in April this year. Why is it that some companies have reported early and some of them haven’t yet done so?

I think it’s kind of human nature. So, the ones who think they are good, the ones that think their gender pay gap is not that high, have kind of rushed off the blocks and tried to report early because they want to look good in terms of their competitors. I think most of those that have delayed is either because they are a bit worried in terms of what their gender pay gap is going to be or you do have some of the diligent ones who have recognised the regulations are quite tricky and they want to make sure that they are absolutely accurate. So, you’ve got those two different reasons. Some for good and some not so good.

Q: Why would some tech startups here in the UK that employ less than 250 people have to worry about the reporting side of it?

Everybody seems to be focusing on the headlines, which is let’s look at the difference between what’s being paid to males and females, but the underlying issue is making sure that you get a diverse workforce. So, if you are starting out in business, you want to get the best skilled workforce that you possibly can and it’s a total nonsense that all the skills sit with males. Obviously a diverse workforce is going to get you a much better skilled workforce and your business is more likely to flourish.

Q: Do you think image and reputation is a real issue in the tech industry?

Tech is seen as one of the ‘sexy’ industries to be part of and people are really conscious these days of wanting to work for a good employer and a good employer is one that treats people fairly, whether they are male, female or whatever the diversity issue. So, it’s absolutely crucial that in the tech industry, things like gender parity are absolutely taken into account.

Q: In your opinion, how can tech entrepreneurs ensure they enforce diversity in the workplace?

I think there are a number of things, I think things like making sure that the atmosphere is right, which sounds like an odd thing to say, but people don’t just come to work just for pay, they wouldn’t come if they weren’t paid, but the atmosphere that you work in has to be right.

Then, the policies, again not necessarily around pay but making sure that flexible working, for instance, is available. If you’ve got women with children or if you’ve got men with children, so why not encourage men, perhaps, to take paternity leave and just not have maternity leave.

Training. Things like making sure there’s no unconscious bias is really important and looking closely at your recruitment and again just checking that there’s no unconscious bias in the way that you’re recruiting people that are coming through.

So, quite a few things you can do that aren’t necessarily just directly related to pay. I think the challenges are in terms of actually some of the definitions, in terms of what is an employee, how you actually carve the pay data.

Q: Is it simply a male versus female issue or do we have to make sure the industry becomes more inclusive in general?

I think to start with, we do need to address the fact that there aren’t enough women in and there aren’t enough women in at senior levels, absolutely, we need to deal with that. But I think we do need to be a bit careful because longer term, this isn’t about women taking over the world, I think it’s about men and women working together.

I have this view in terms of masculine and feminine traits, so I think you can have a man, who has what we would typically talk about feminine traits, some of the softer skills, and you can have women who have much more of what you would call the masculine kind of skills, like being really driven, hard and focused. I think that actually if you look at those traits, you need a balance of both the softer and the harder skills whether they are in men or whether they are in women. So, I think going forwards we want men and women to work together, but as a starting point, we need to have much more focus on getting women in senior roles and in the C-suite.

That’s all for this episode!

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