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Thinking differently about how we get the gender balance right in the workplace at more senior levels....

Category: Gender Pay Gap, Gender Focus, Gender Equality, dunnhumby, Maternity Leave, gender diversity, data, Gender Balance, analytics, senior

Gender Focus.

Currently in the UK there is a lot of talk about the Gender Pay gap and the Pensions gap between men and women. However, it’s important to note the Gender pay ‘gap’ isn’t the same as ‘equal pay for an equal role’ – it’s about the average pay of all the men in an organisation, versus the average pay of all the women in an organisation regardless of role. So, if you have a greater number of men than women in senior roles, you’ll naturally have a gender pay gap – it’s that simple. The same gap exists in male and female pensions, given that the amount people pay into their pension is generally linked to a percentage of pay. 

Understandably most companies focus on trying to increase the number of senior females in their organisation, however that can sometimes be a challenge where supply is an issue. Instead we need to think differently about how we support women back into the workplace more quickly, once they’ve had children. 

While the main responsibility for childcare typically falls to women in the UK, this is not the case for our Scandinavian neighbours, where childcare is far more balanced between men and women. As a consequence women don’t step out of the work place for so long and continue to progress to senior roles. The UK Government have tried to do their bit by introducing Paternity Leave and Shared Parental Leave (SPL). However, while many companies offer Maternity Leave at an enhanced amount above their statutory obligations for up to six months (or even more), SPL is generally not enhanced. This means that as a family, if women chose to share their Maternity Leave and return to work more quickly, the family are worse off than if the women stays at home for the full Maternity Leave period. Continuing to reinforce the situation where women step out of the workplace for a period and men do not. 

At dunnhumby we saw this as a major barrier to the uptake of SPL, so we’re proud to now match our SPL pay to the same level as our maternity offering. This has been brilliantly received by male colleagues and we’re seeing increasing numbers, across all levels, choosing to take time off to spend with their families. As one of our employees put it: “We both wanted time to bond with the new addition in our family, and we wanted her to grow up knowing that parenting and working were not gender specific roles. Equality in the workplace is not possible without domestic equality to enable it.”

However, we are mindful that currently we’re benefitting the men who work at dunnhumby with this offering, but not necessarily the women whose partners’ companies do not offer matched SPL pay. For dunnhumby the decision to launch enhanced SPL to the same level as Maternity Leave was critical, as we believe that until there is a significant shift across all companies to offer SPL at the same level as maternity, we’ll never see a step change in the UK. A quote from one of our senior males directly sums this up: “For me the key enabler that makes taking shared parental leave a real option is the enhanced pay that dunnhumby offer. As I am the main earner in our household, I couldn’t afford to have taken shared parental leave on the statutory rate, so whilst shared parental leave is a good initiative by the government, until more companies offer enhanced pay it’s not actually a feasible option for most people”.  

As well as the focus on SPL at dunnhumby we’ve been looking at how we create an environment for those with family and caring responsibilities to thrive. This has led to the introduction of a buddy scheme to support mothers and fathers through the transition on to and back from family leave, greater education and support for managers and teams around flexible working and coaching sessions on work-life balance sponsored by the community-led Parents and Carers Network. This investment from our people, managers and leaders is part of our commitment to building a more inclusive culture, where any of our dunnhumbians can balance a successful career with their commitments and interests outside of work.

If we want to see greater numbers of senior females across organisations in the UK, and to close the gender pay and pensions gap, then we must look at the enablers that can increase the future pipeline of senior women. Changing the balance of primary childcare support, by making it more acceptable and affordable for men and women to share childcare commitments equally, enables women to come back into the workplace, and sooner. I’m only aware of a few other companies who are doing similar to dunnhumby, and I think it’s time others started seriously considering it as a societal enabler to changing the gender balance at senior levels of organisations in future.

Denise Sefton
By Denise Sefton

Chief People Officer at dunnhumby

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VERCIDA works with over one hundred clients who are committed to creating an inclusive work environment. If you are an employer and interested in working with VERCIDA to promote your diversity and inclusion initiatives and attract the best candidates, please email [email protected] for more information.

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