When we delved into the results of the Salary Survey we carried out this year, polling more than 800 professionals in the industry, we were hopeful that they might reveal a narrowing of the pay gap. After all, it’s been a hot topic in the news with the government unveiling plans for a league table ranking large firms by gender pay gap, along with the requirement for companies with more than 250 employees to disclose how much they are paying in salaries to their male and female staff. Surely this must signal hope on the horizon for a long overdue end to the pay disparity across the genders in PR.
So… what did our survey reveal?
That, sadly, there has been no change. There is a still gap – the exact same gap in fact. The statistics make for a disheartening read.
The discouraging breakdown
The average pay gap in the Corporate and Financial agencies across all levels is £11,000. Men in senior roles – Board Director/Partner and Director/Partner – earn on average a staggering £15,000 more than women in the same roles. Male Associate Directors earn on average £5,000 more than their female counterparts, and among Account Directors, the difference is a shocking average of £12,000 in favour of the men.
The pay gap in the in-house Corporate and Financial firms stands at £7,000, and while this is slightly less, it is by no means insignificant. The difference among senior level in-house employees is a real eye-opener, with male Global Heads of Communications, Heads of Communications and Communications/PR Directors earning on average an incredible £22,000 more than women in the exact same senior-level roles. At Senior PR Manager level, the difference is a lot narrower but still favours the men, who earn an average of £3,000 more than their female counterparts. The gap widens again among PR Managers. Men in this role tend to earn £9,000 more on average than women.
Why oh why is this still an issue?
These are staggering differences, and in 2016, it’s hard to comprehend that such inequality is still an issue. But an issue it most certainly is, and one that requires less talk and more action in order to redress the balance.
Our survey also revealed that in both the Corporate and Financial PR agencies, male Account Directors now earn an average salary of £55,000 pa, whereas their female counterparts receive £43,000 pa for the same role. Considering PR professionals typically move into the role of Account Director at, give or take a year or two, the six-year point in their professional career, it’s astonishing that such a wide gap exists at this relatively early stage.
What can be done to bridge the gap?
Such a deep-seated issue is obviously not going to disappear overnight, or for that matter in the space of a couple of years. But in order for things to start changing, and for the pay gap to start narrowing, there are a number of actions that can be taken, and we believe the following rank high on the list.
1. Start at the top
It is down to the most senior women and men in PR to act as advocates for fairness in compensation and make changes within their own teams. Leaders need to foster a work culture where performance is rewarded equitably and transparently, and where talented professionals, whether male or female, feel valued for their contributions, and are rewarded accordingly.
Female hires should be put on the same starting salaries as men in the same roles. Every year, leaders should take proactive steps to ensure that salary adjustments are equivalent across the genders.
2. Nurture the female pipeline
Increasing the number of women on boards will go a long way to helping close the gender pay gap. A number of mentoring programmes are operating across the industry to prevent the drain of mid-career women; as more companies actively encourage their female talent to enrol on these kind of programmes, more women will be better placed to become directors, which will in turn position them positively to affect change and close the gap.
3. Follow the lead of successful companies – and publish pay data now
Organisations such as Deloitte and PwC are already publishing their gender pay gap data and using the facts to drive better business, close the gap and gain competitive advantage. Some employers may feel nervous about the consequences of sharing their data but the example set by Deloitte et al shows that transparency is not something to be feared. It is important to be open about the challenges that a gender pay gap presents and the action required tackling the gap.
4. Actively engage with the pay gap
While women need to know their worth and negotiate effectively, it’s not just their actions alone that will address the pay gap. Employers also need to work on evolving their workplace culture to create environments that thrive on equality and diversity. This involves breaking down barriers that stall the career and pay trajectory of women and combatting gender stereotypes, particularly when it comes to sectors and roles that women are encouraged into.
A final thought – do Millennials hold the key to affect true change?
Transparency is a huge motivating factor for Millennials in choosing a workplace. They will use gender pay gap information to assess potential employers. Many are now reaching the age where they are moving into senior positions; before long, they will be running organisations. With their attitudes towards transparency, they will be instrumental in closing the gap.
With Deloitte voluntarily publishing gender pay gaps, or other organisations such as HSBC pledging to appoint women to half of its senior roles, it is clear that some employers are taking a proactive stance, but there is undoubtedly a long way to travel until the gap is bridged once and for all.
To read the full survey click here.