'Release gender pay gap reports to drive change'
FDM COO Sheila Flavell says any company worried about releasing their gender pay gap report should just get on with it in order to start making positive changes.
The IT services provider was the sixth company to publish its gender pay gap report.
It has a median gender pay gap of 0 per cent, compared to the UK average of 18.1 per cent, and a mean pay gap of six per cent. This is only down to the fact that there are more men in the company, says Flavell.
Offering advice to companies about to release their own figures, she says that reporting is the first step to improving.
“You might as well just get on with it because you can’t change the data,” she told BusinessCloud.
“Analyse it and look at where you are now. It’s a journey and this is just the beginning. Look at how you can improve things.
“It’s a slow burner and it’s going to take a long time to change but if you know where the problem lies you can look at how to fix it.
“It has to be driven from the top – it’s very difficult to drive initiatives from the bottom up.”
Flavell is also concerned that the report might make it seem like companies are paying fairly when a closer look reveals otherwise.
“If you look at the gender pay gap reports, some of the larger organisations have parity with salaries but there’s still a huge difference between men and women’s bonuses,” she said.
For Flavell, who is FDM’s most senior woman and mentors regularly, the move isn’t actually so much about equal pay as helping women within the industry generally.
“The Equal Pay Act came in 40 years ago,” she says.
“This is about helping bring in more women and promoting them through organisations so we have more women at all levels in every organisation.”
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FDM has been proactive in its efforts to ensure that men and women doing the same job are paid the same, says Flavell. This is through both homegrown initiatives and supporting external programmes.
One such initiative is FDM’s Getting Back to Business programme which Flavell set up after her own experiences of trying to return to the workplace following the birth of her children.
Having previously worked in the Middle East with 600 people reporting to her, she attempted to get a senior HR role on returning to the UK. However after a job agency suggested a position as a waitress she went back to university to get two masters degrees.
“My advice to women is to get yourself a mentor,” she said. “Self-belief is really important and other than that you’ve just got to get out there and do it.”
She believes that by making it easier for women to return to work after having children companies will both plug their skills gap and improve their gender pay figures.
“Employers love women returners,” she said. “They see their value and they help with their gender pay gap – these aren’t graduates coming in at entry level, they’re coming in with lots of experience and are ready to move on to the next stage.”
Flavell herself was brought in by FDM’s founder – and her now-husband – Rod Flavell in the company’s infancy.
“I left for a period and Rod called me up and said the company needs its mother back and would I come help him,” she explained.
“That’s where our gender parity started because he liked to have a balance."
Twenty-six years later, the company has made sure to keep gender a key issue, with women making up 50 per cent of its management team.
“Our roots are in Brighton and our culture is like Brighton rock, with diversity running through it,” says Flavell.
“Rod always said ‘forget about diversity - look for talent - where you find talent diversity will follow’, and that’s served us well.”