Pay gap figures should prompt printers to walk the walk

By Rhys Handley, Monday 23 April 2018

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Print has long been a man’s game. It doesn’t take a master statistician to deduce from visitor demographics at print trade shows or a walk across a press hall floor that the vast majority of those in the industry are men.


But it isn’t necessarily a case of numbers, and there are plenty of women who rise to positions of respect, importance and prestige across the industry. But raw data paints a starker picture showing how, even as print continues to nurture a progressive gene, these esteemed exceptions remain exactly that: exceptions.

Last year, the government decreed that all companies in the UK employing more than 250 staff must publish their gender pay gap figures by midnight on Wednesday 4 April, and reveal how much the pay that women earned differed from that of men, comparing both mean and median.

It exposed skeletons of pay disparity in the closets of many of the biggest companies – Ryanair reported a jumbo jet-sized median gap of 72% [for reference, the national average is 18.4%] – while likely jolting many other industries, including print (see table on p10), into action.

Dylan Rowlands, employment solicitor for the BPIF, says: “For the first time there is a positive, legally mandated obligation upon qualifying employers to disclose this information. It lays bare gender pay disparity for all to see. 

“As well as giving evidence for employees to bring legal claims, primarily for equal pay cases, an unjustifiable gap in pay between genders will inevitably cause workforce dissatisfaction, possibly affecting staff commitment and engagement.

“Our advice would be for companies to get their houses in order – pay audits and objective job evaluation need to be undertaken and the BPIF can assist with this.”

Separate and unequal

Case-by-case, companies have a lot to address: the way they structure pay policy; the unconscious bias of hiring and recruiting; and the make-up of executive boards – but these are symptoms of a problem that is not just industrial, but societal.

Closing the gender pay gap might mean a top-down reimagining of a firm’s culture and the solutions may not lie in arbitrarily paying men and women equal salaries, but in giving men and women equal opportunities to move into work of equal value.

Louisa Bull, union Unite’s national officer for the print industry, says: “Talking to employers, we have found that, although there are plenty of women in the print industry, role segregation is the problem.

“Women tend to take up roles like finishing, bindery or admin which tend not to present clear progression into higher-paid supervising or managerial roles. It is rarely spoken about because people have accepted the situation, but difficult conversations now need to be had. 

“More women are coming into this sector through pathways like apprenticeships, often in areas like engineering which lend themselves to progression. Young women tend to speak out more on these issues, so we need to keep attracting them into the sector to help solve this problem for future generations.”

Role reversals

In any example of wide-ranging datasets, there are exceptions. Among figures collated by PrintWeek, five print-related companies revealed that their average female worker earned more than their average male employee – Huhtamaki UK, HP Inc UK, the Royal Mail Group, Service Graphics, and Macfarlane Group (though Service Graphics’ median gap remains 9.6% in favour of men).

While Glasgow packaging group Macfarlane welcomed the news with a hint of pride at bucking a systemic trend, there is no denying that some disparities still exist that must be confronted.

Company secretary Derek Quirk said: “We knew that the driving force of our results was our sales team being predominantly female, thus attracting a higher salary, while our logistics and production side is more male-oriented.

“Though we do not differentiate and recruit the best person for the job, the numbers do not lie, and I think it is critical we not be complacent. This will help us to challenge ourselves and review our recruitment because the genders do seem to fall on either side.

“In our internal policy, we are very keen to walk the walk on this issue and look to understand what we can do. The figures are important because it gives us and other companies a baseline from which we can chart the effectiveness of any initiatives we put in place.”

It is often argued that men tend to be more assertive in the workplace – contributing to the faster promotions and higher pay that women may not ask for, or risk being dismissed with derogatory smears like ‘bossy’ or ‘difficult’. But the plain-speaking data released by print’s biggest players is hoped to motivate female workers to stand their ground and fight for fairer pay policies, both individually and collectively.

United we stand

PHD Marketing managing director Joanna Stephenson founded the Women in Packaging collective specifically to unify female voices in the sector and push for the parity and esteem that has long eluded the industry’s female contingent.

She says: “The report has shown how female contributions are often rewarded less than that of their male colleagues. We will continue to work with industry to remedy the issue.

“Making your voice heard isn’t just about shouting loudly, and change can be affected by banding together through organisations such as WIP UK, which exist to vocalise issues and question established norms, improving access through networking and mentoring.”

You can see how printing industry players performed in the inaugural gender pay gap report by clicking on the following link: Print gender pay gap data.


Print must take meaningful steps to close the pay gap

sue-coeSue Coe, head of employment, Equality and Human Rights Commission

Publishing gender pay gap data is the first step to a more equal workplace. Only by knowing and understanding pay gap data can we start to address it. This is why we have encouraged employers to set out how they are going to address any imbalances they have uncovered.

The data will become more meaningful each year as employees keep an eye on employers’ progress against these action plans.

We want companies to tackle prejudice and bias in recruitment, performance, evaluation and reward decisions, and use fair, transparent processes with positive action and talent pipeline development for appointment to senior and board roles.

Our working culture and practices need a significant shake up. Making all jobs available for flexible working from day one and giving fathers ‘use it or lose it’ paternity leave would bring about better equality in the workplace and home.

We’ve already seen some lessons learned, for example EasyJet, which has a large gender pay gap as a result of the vast majority of its pilots, who earn more than cabin crew and other employees, being male. It has set itself the target of a fifth of all new pilots recruited to be female by 2020.

We need other employers to follow this lead and set out action plans with clear time frames and ambitious targets. As recent interest has shown, gender equality in the workplace is now on the national agenda and SMEs can also take positive steps around flexible working, recruitment and progression.

The onus is on businesses and society, not women, to address gender pay gaps. Not only because it makes good business sense, but also because it is the right thing to do. If women require advice about discussing gender pay gap data with employers, then support is available through the Equality Advisory and Support Service.


What have you learned from your gender pay gap figures? 

brownKatherine Brown, HR director, Prinovis UK

“I think the gender pay gap reports are useful to see where organisations sit. We ensure we pay men and women equally where they are employed in the same roles. We have been at the forefront of the Bertelsmann diversity project, rolling out unconscious bias training first across all of the management levels. We currently employ two apprentices: one male, one female. We recognise that we work in an industry that has been skewed towards male workers. We’re pleased that our results reflect some of the effort that we have made so far.”

hardyJenni Hardy, head of HR, Williams Lea Tag EMEA

“Our findings have provided us with a good starting point for the next series of initiatives that we are undertaking to reduce pay gaps. We are proud that 40% of our board members are female and our recruitment strategies ensure female candidates are shortlisted for every management role. WLT is also committed to management training and mentoring to increase awareness of diversity and the importance of increasing female representation in management, which will also help close the pay gap and support equal opportunities.”

duttonAndrew Dutton, chief executive, Adare International

“I was pleased that we seem to be more balanced than other companies across the sector. We operate on the basis of meritocracy, so I believe we will take a look at the talent within our business and see what is available to promote from within. There is a high proportion of women in that group. We have grown our staff and seen more women come on board, like our UK managing director Tracy Ellison. In the lower quartiles it is hard to balance, but we have looked at reconstructing pay so those in similarly important roles have parity.”

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