Biggest UK aid organizations report gender pay gap in favor of men

U.K. coins. Photo by: Images Money / CC BY

LONDON — The United Kingdom’s biggest aid organizations have revealed gender pay gaps ranging from 1 percent to 45 percent as part of a government drive to crack down on the problem.

Aid groups who were required to publish their figures under a new regulation, which covers companies and organizations with more than 250 employees, said they had a gender pay gap in favor of men. However, the average gap across 17 major nonprofits reviewed by Devex was 12.6 percent in mean hourly pay, lower than the U.K. national average of 17.4 percent. There is no official full list of aid organizations that fall under the regulation.

Women also earned an average of 47.1 percent less in bonus pay across four aid-focused nonprofits that offered them.

That is despite women making up the majority of the workforce at almost all the organizations that reported, including at the highest-paid levels.

The biggest offenders were Marie Stopes International, which reported a difference of 45.2 percent, meaning male employees earn almost double that of female employees per hour; and World Vision U.K., which reported a gap of 24.2 percent.

The best performers among nonprofits with a focus on overseas development or humanitarian aid were Sightsavers, which reported a gap of just 1 percent; and UNICEF U.K., with a difference of 5.4 percent.

MSI said its gap was driven by the different roles filled by staff in its U.K. family planning clinics, with more women working as nurses and more men in senior clinical roles such as surgery, which it said reflected a sector-wide issue in health care. It added that it aims to fully close the gender pay gap in its Global Support Office, which focuses on its work in developing countries, and to halve the gap in its U.K. division.

In its gender pay gap report, World Vision referred to the “pattern from the U.K. economy” resulting in more women in lower-paid roles, but said it is “committed to reducing the gap,” in part through the work of its Dignity and Inclusion Group, which is leading on actions to reduce barriers to diversity within the organization, and through deeper analysis of the issue to improve its initiatives.

The information was revealed under a new U.K. regulation that required organizations over a certain size to publish anonymized gender pay gap data by April 4. They will need to update the figures annually going forward, which the government hopes will drive increased efforts toward addressing the issue.

Public bodies are also obliged to publish the information. The Department for International Development reported paying women an average of 8.5 percent less than men — a much smaller gap than the national average, but still higher than some ministerial departments which reported gaps as low as 3.3 percent. DFID said in a report that the difference was caused by a higher proportion of men in senior management roles, compounded by the fact that many junior roles are based outside London with lower salaries.

However, the CDC, DFID’s development finance arm, reported a gender pay gap of 29.2 percent, and a gap in bonus pay between men and women of 24.8 percent.

Some of DFID’s biggest private sector suppliers also reported higher figures. For example, Crown Agents had a gender pay gap of 26.2 percent as of April 2017 — the date fixed by the government for reporting purposes — alongside a bonus gap of 81.9 percent. Oxford Policy Management reported a pay gap of 26.7 percent, and an average difference in bonus pay of 56.3 percent. Both were among DFID’s top 10 contractors between 2010 and 2016.

Crown Agents said its latest figures had seen the pay gap reduced to 16.5 percent as of November 2017, and attributed the high gap in bonus pay to the effect of its commercial trading team — which has a separate incentives scheme to the rest of the organization — being made up mostly of men. Chief Executive Officer Fergus Drake said: “We are putting in place a dedicated program across the business to reduce our gender pay gap. Over the past six months, we have already increased the number of female employees in our managerial, senior leadership, and executive teams and we will also be doing deeper analysis to further diagnose problems and put in place specific solutions.”

A spokesperson for Oxford Policy Management said steps were already underway to address the issue, including changes to board membership, diversity training for staff, and the creation of a diversity committee, which will gather ideas and input on the issue from staff globally to help develop its strategy going forward. “We are committed to taking positive action that will close our gender pay gap and to ensuring wider diversity and inclusion in all its forms,” the spokesperson said.

In reports supplied by the aid organizations who submitted their figures, the most common reason given for the pay gap was fewer women in senior positions. That was the case even where women made up the majority of the workforce, or the majority of the leadership team, because of an uneven distribution of roles. For example, although MSI has a majority female workforce at all pay levels, female employees account for 90 percent of the lowest-paid jobs and 58 percent of the highest paid.

Organizations also pointed to the kinds of roles in which women are employed. For example, Voluntary Service Overseas, which reported an overall gap of 5.9 percent, described a “more competitive and higher-paid market for finance and IT, which traditionally tend to attract more men,” compared to areas such as business development and human resources, which are lower paid and tend to attract more women.

Meanwhile, Oxfam, which reported an overall gap of 11 percent, pointed to an over-representation of women among its shop staff, which are generally paid less than other roles in the organization; and CDC said it had a “disproportionately high” number of women in lower-paid administrative roles.

Discussing the figures, Tamsyn Barton, chief executive of international development network Bond, said: “It’s reassuring that the majority of NGOs and DFID have a lower gender pay gap than the national average, but we clearly still have a way to go … particularly when it comes to performance awards and more senior positions, and also better remunerated organizations such as CDC — it seems the higher the salary, the bigger the gender pay gap …”

“As a sector that works to tackle gender inequality in all of its manifestations in the ‘global south,’ it’s time we do the same at home by closing the gender pay gap. This means being transparent and publishing the data; ensuring women are represented equally at all levels of employment and paid equally for equal work; encouraging promotions for women as well as men, even if they are not shouting the loudest; and working to ensure that NGOs are family-friendly places to work, through measures like flexible working.”

Bond itself has a gender pay gap of about 2.6 percent in favor of women, she added, although as a small organization it is not required to report to government.

Under the Gender Pay Gap Information Regulations that came into force last year, around 9,000 of the U.K.’s biggest employers are obliged to publish six calculations about gender pay differences within their organizations, including the mean and median gap in hourly pay; a comparison of the proportion of male and female employees receiving bonuses, and the average difference between them; and the proportion of male and female employees in four pay bands.

While the median gender pay gap is more representative of a “typical” employee in the organization, the mean can better reflect an absence of women in higher-paying jobs.

The pay gap figures represent an average across an organization as a whole. They do not necessarily reflect different pay for equivalent work, which has been illegal in the U.K. since the Equal Pay Act of 1970, although cases are still being brought.

Other causes include the types of work that women are employed in; an under-representation of women at senior levels; and an over-representation of women in part-time roles, which may result in a lower hourly rate of pay.

About the author

  • Jessica Abrahams

    Jessica Abrahams is Devex's Deputy News Editor. Based in London, she works with Devex's team of correspondents and editors around the world, with a particular focus on Europe & Africa. She has previously worked as a writer, researcher and editor for Prospect magazine, The Telegraph and Bloomberg News, among other outlets. She holds graduate degrees in journalism from City University London and in international relations from Institut Barcelona d'Estudis Internacionals.