Times caption: Fiona Dawson says the way to tackle Mars Food UK’s pay gap is to increase the number of women in production areas, which have traditionally been male-dominated
A piece in today’s Times, emphases ours:
Women, it seems, are from Mars after all. This weekend the senior management of the British company is grappling with some rather large gender pay disparities.
Like many captains of industry, they are striving for greater equality and acknowledge that with a pay gap of 51 per cent, this might be a long-term task. However, there is one area in which Fiona Dawson, global president of Mars Foods, and her team differ from many other UK boardrooms — her pay difference is in favour of women.
“My CFO is female, my head of corporate affairs is female. We have a number of senior women in our business across the board,” she said. “We are quite an inclusive team.”
This has been the week when Britain’s largest employers had to reveal the data on their pay gaps. There have been the predictable villains — the finance sector, for instance, on a 22 per cent disparity — and the less predictable, such as the women’s fashion retailer Sweaty Betty, which had a 68 per cent pay gap between the sexes.
Mars Food UK, which makes Uncle Ben’s and Dolmio and is separate from the confectionery business, has achieved near equality of the sexes at the top but suffers a strong male bias among its manufacturing workers. [J4MB: Hmm. When are words such as “suffers” used to describe female-dominated workforces? Never.] Ms Dawson is determined to tackle it by ensuring that more women take up low-paid work in the warehouse. [J4MB: So women will be preferenced over men not only for well-paid jobs, but for low-paid jobs too, although until recently male unemployment in the UK was higher than female unemployment? Equality is a fine thing.] “We do want to get women into manufacturing,” she said. “It’s been seen historically as more a male environment. We are now seeing a lot more inclusivity.”
When pay gap statistics were published, many companies complained of an inevitably crude reporting measure. Airline giants suffered, for example, from the fact that their cabin staff were predominantly female, meaning that even when there was pay parity among pilots, there would still appear to be a male bias in overall pay.
Others had less of an excuse. Condé Nast, the publisher of Vogue, GQ, Vanity Fair and Glamour revealed that its mean hourly rate for women across the company was 36.9 per cent lower than men’s. Emily Sheffield, a former employee of Vogue, accused the group in the London Evening Standard of ostensibly supporting feminism while remaining “strangely quiet” about its own pay differentials.
Despite the high profiles of senior women such as Anna Wintour, the artistic director, who is said to be paid a $2 million salary with a $200,000 clothing allowance, the publisher acknowledged that its pay gap was influenced by generously compensated men at the top. “The report does reflect a gender pay gap in the top quartile, which is influenced by a senior leadership team, many of them long standing at the company. We recognise that we need to work to reduce the gap.”
As part of one of the most progressive companies in the pay gap report, yet ostensibly an even worse performer than Vogue, Ms Dawson might have cause to feel the statistics were a little too crude. She said, though, that while the data shorn of its context could sometimes be misleading, in her case, by penalising a policy of recruiting and maintaining women in management, the statistics were still useful. “Any data taken in isolation has problems,” she said. “There are well-documented examples where we see big differences for a variety of reasons. So you may disagree with some of the ways it is sliced and diced, but I think publishing the data is driving the conversation.”
The largest gender pay problems are in football clubs, and at the moment it is more realistic for them to win the treble than close the gap. If Manchester City is going to reach gender parity, it will have to begin fraught negotiations with the agent of Kevin de Bruyne, at present on £260,000 a week. The highest paid female player earns a fraction of that. [J4MB: And why is that? In the immortal words of Toyah Wilcox, “It’s a mystery, oh, it’s a mystery.”]
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