It’s been an interesting couple of weeks and one of the things that has struck me is the continued discussion around pay. The announcement at the beginning of last week that under government reforms the UK’s biggest firms will have to reveal how much more their chief executives are paid compared with the average worker. Whilst the CEO is often important in steering the direction of many companies, I believe that, in a lot of cases, they are not fundamental to the success of that business and the value put on their skills is often too high. In many businesses both private and public the management pay scale far outweighs that of the individuals that actually make the goods, provide the services or carry out the administration. Whilst it is important to have individuals that give direction and make often difficult decisions, there are far too many in this position. If all ‘the workers’ were not around then nothing would need to be managed as there would be no goods or services. The point I am trying to make is that there is too wide a gulf and it only appears to be getting wider. When our nurses complain because they are limited to a 1% pay rise across the NHS board you can understand it. If you’re a manager already earning £60,000 a year an extra £50 a month is nice, if you’re a nurse earning £23,000 an extra £19 a month is not helpful.
The administration team within our business is as important as the Directors to how well we do as a company. They feel valued and know that their role is respected so they work hard and look after our clients, which reflects well on our interaction with the clients as well. It’s a win, win situation. Many smaller businesses run this way.
I would like to see businesses reducing the pay divide across all sectors of the market. I am sure that the results achieved by this action would be amazing and would set the UK on a strong path of economic growth with a more satisfied workforce.
In the previous week it was revealed that Holly Willoughby had her This Morning salary increased by £200,000 to match that of her co presenter Phillip Schofield. Quite right too! There is no justification for two people who do the exact same job being paid different amounts of money.
Whilst this is good news it only goes to highlight the level of the problem. If high profile ‘celebrities’ such as Holly have been paid less for the same work, what chance is there for others in normal jobs? Yes, the problem is one of gender. Women are often viewed as less able to carry out higher level roles. Here’s an idea Ladies, the next child you have, regardless of gender, call them John. Can you believe there are more men named ‘John’ running FTSE 100 companies than there are actual women directors!
I also think that women are slightly to blame. We have been so desperate to prove ourselves, as good as, if not better, than our male counterparts that we have allowed them to restrict our salaries. Falsely believing that it is better to get the job, with lower pay than we think others would be paid, because when it is realised just how capable we are that the salary increases would follow. My own experience is that once you have accepted such a role, you have almost made a rod for your own back and it is very difficult to negotiate large increases to equalise the pay. The time has come for us to stop undervaluing ourselves. Yes we want the jobs but on the same basis as anyone else. Women have qualities that men don’t and these need to be appreciated. Ladies, it is time to demand equal contracts, salaries and benefits as the men. Yes, we often have children that disturb our careers, but what we learn from such an experience is worth its ‘weight in gold’. It does not diminish our value to the workforce, it enhances it.
Although gender is an issue for pay, it is not the only one. Being from an ethnic minority also limits your chances of being on the board. In a report carried out by Sir John Parker last year he found that just 8% of all directors are non-white. Only seven companies accounted for a third of all directors hailing from ethnic minority backgrounds while 53 firms did not have a single non-white executive on the board. With our ever changing UK culture this cannot be right or good for these companies if there is not a fair representation of the workforce as a whole.
There is no quick, easy solution to these problems but the more that the issues are highlighted and talked about the closer we will move to getting the inequalities corrected. It is everyone’s duty to question prejudice, in whatever form, when it rears its ugly head and there is no excuse not to. I don’t believe in positive discrimination as a way to put women or ethnic minorities on the board. However I do believe that the best person, whoever that is, should be chosen and paid accordingly.