How PwC is working to close the gender pay gap

04 September 2015 -


Insights talks to PwC diversity and inclusion lead Sarah Churchman about what measures the accounting firm is using to remove the gender pay gap

Matt Scott

Recent research from CMI has revealed that the gender pay gap stands at 22%, with men earning an average of £8,524 more than their female counterparts.

New government legislation is being introduced next year that will require companies with more than 250 employees to publicly report gender pay.

Some businesses, such as big four accounting firms PwC and Deloitte, have already made the move to reveal the difference in pay for men and women they employ ahead of the new rules.

PwC diversity and inclusion lead Sarah Churchman said the move had been a positive one and encouraged others to follow suit.

“A lot of employers are worried about publishing their gender pay gap,” she said. “Our view is that it has only been positive – once you publish it does create a greater accountability for doing something about it.”

Churchman told Insights that PwC has been completing pay audits for a number of years now, and that the analysis threw up some surprises in the form of accidental pay inequality.

“We initially said we didn’t have a gender pay problem because we have a fair approach to pay,” she said. “When you do the analysis and it reveals a difference, what you tend to unearth is always a surprise to people.

“The difference is often the unintended consequence of an action that was never intended to create inequality in terms of pay between men and women. It then plays to the unconscious bias agenda – it wasn’t intentional.”

This ‘unearthing’ of a gender pay gap has led the accountancy firm to discover new areas in which differences are unexpectedly entering the system.

“At senior grades, where there are fewer promotion opportunities, a classic example has been when we haven’t been able to promote as many people as we wanted to, some of the senior sponsors have said: ‘men are more likely to be a flight risk, so we need to give them a pay rise if we can’t promote them’,” Churchman said. “Women tend to be not seen as a flight risk because they are incredibly loyal.

“Therefore, by trying to ensure people didn’t leave in the past, that has led to a pay gap between men and women.”

Read the CMI's eight ways to close the gender pay gap

And PwC have also introduced other measures to help close the gap identified by their audits. These include benchmarking promotions by gender and providing mentors and senior sponsors for women looking to rise through the business.

“The biggest reason for the pay gap is more men in senior roles, and more women in secretarial or admin roles,” Churchman said. “Our goal has always been to bring more women through to senior roles and that continues to be our overarching objective.

“[To help achieve that] we look to ensure our talented women have senior-level sponsors who can ensure they are getting the right experience and opportunities to strengthen their case for promotion.”

She added: “We also have a women’s leadership programme, which helps them to understand their own leadership style and to be more confident in being their own advocate and feel more comfortable selling themselves.

“There are a whole variety of things we are doing to ensure that we are moving towards that proportionality of promotions at every level – particularly for middle management upwards.”

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