The Top Employer Awards celebrate organisations that are committed to supporting their employees with agile working, family-friendly initiatives and positive leadership.

Last Tuesday evening, we attended the ceremony as finalists in the SME (1-25 staff) category. Whilst we didn’t win, we were incredibly proud to be nominated, and left feeling inspired by many of the winners on the night.

Another source of inspiration was the fabulous (it’s the only word to describe it) speech from keynote speaker Ann Francke, who is currently CEO at the Chartered Management Institute (CMI).

Ann spoke with passion and pragmatism about a burning issue that continues to smoulder: The gender pay gap. During the course of her presentation, Ann shared some stats that truly shocked us.

Gender pay gap: The stats

The gender pay gap widens the higher up the ladder you go.

By the time we reach senior roles, the gap resembles more of a gaping chasm. In senior positions, we’re looking at a £34,144 difference between men and women’s salaries,* whilst there is an astonishing 83% difference between the bonus awarded to male and female staff in the C-suite.*

Yes. The average female CEO’s bonus is £14,945 compared to £89,230 for men.

Part of this, Ann said, could be down to a higher number of women CEOs in lower paid industries, such as the charity or public sector.

Ann’s presentation also showed that women are more likely to work in junior-level roles than their male colleagues. Meanwhile, Director-level roles are 74% more likely to be taken by men.**

Gender inequality in the workplace isn’t solely limited to our pay packets. A recent CMI survey discovered that 50% of managers had experienced gender bias in recruitment/promotion decisions.†  69% said they had seen women struggling to make their views heard in meetings, whilst 81% said they had witnessed inappropriate remarks in the workplace.†

How do we relegate these stats to the history book?

This was the question posed by Ann. What on earth can we do to resolve these issues?

The Government took a step forward in April of this year, by passing new reporting regulations that require large employers to publicly disclose the size of their gender pay gap. But despite this, six months on less than 1% have fulfilled these obligations.

So, let’s turn to what we can do in our own workplaces.

Ann began with what she deemed the ‘broken window’ approach, based on former New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani’s method for tackling crime during the 90s. She explained the need for business leaders to recognise and fix smaller issues first in an organisation’s culture or working environment.

It could be male dominated meetings or conversations which leave female colleagues feeling isolated or othered. It could be holding all-team meetings at times when working parents can’t participate (e.g. during the school pick-up). It could be office ‘banter’ that blurs misogyny with humour.

Whatever the window, Ann encouraged the audience to begin tackling these matters in order to create a more appropriate and inclusive working environment for all staff.

Another suggestion from Ann was to bring the boys on board. She urged business leaders to identify male role models to join the fight against broken windows in the workplace.

Now we’ve touched on this topic before: It is essential for us to elevate matters like the gender pay gap, career progression for working mums, and workplace sexism to a status beyond ‘women’s issues’. Instead, these need to be everybody’s issues.

CEOs of both genders need to be concerned that organisations are missing out on exceptional talent because women are reluctant to return to work after maternity leave. Boards should be questioning why more women are not considered for senior roles. And business leaders across the country should be eager to establish gender pay equality – as experts believe it will add £150bn to the economy.ˆ

There’s no doubt that diversity across all sectors and levels of seniority is crucial for organisations to be able to better manage business risks, engage with customers and think ‘outside the box’.

So, as Ann encouraged the audience on Tuesday evening, bring your male team members into the conversation. Champion initiatives such as shared parental leave, encourage flexible working for dads and promote dads’ rights in your workplace.

Make inclusivity and gender balance a shared passion across your business. Add it to your board meeting agendas. Talk to your team; understand what might make a difference to them. Embrace flexible working. Consider job shares. Review your family-friendly working practices, benefits packages and support for mums returning to the workplace. Call out inappropriate behaviour, fix those broken windows, and encourage everyone from the CEO to your new apprentice to do the same.

The Top Employer Awards recognise business leaders who support a balance between work and home, and foster a working culture where flexibility and trust are deeply embedded.

The stats around the gender pay great big cavity gap are scary, and as a young woman I feel incredibly lucky to be working in an organisation that demonstrates such support for career progression, working families and agile working. I know not everyone does. But on Tuesday night, as I looked around the audience at our fellow finalists and winners, I saw nodding heads, listened to questions asked and answered, and sensed a shared passion and drive to facilitate real change.

And it made me feel pretty hopeful that, one day, in the not-too distant future, when I next sit down to write a blog post like this, windows in workplaces big and small may be a little less broken.





About the author

Tristan Potter

Tristan has a decade's worth of experience writing content and copy for organisations across Bristol and the Southwest of England. He has written on a diverse range of topics, including technology, philosophy, politics, and recruitment. His writing has appeared in The Drum, HR Grapevine, and The Guardian, among other publications. He joined Hireserve in March 2022.