Marie Stopes has worst gender pay gap among UK aid groups — again

A woman carrying a baby arrives at the Marie Stopes clinic in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Photo by: REUTERS / Luc Gnago

LONDON — Marie Stopes International has the highest gender pay gap among major U.K. aid nonprofits for the second year in a row.

The sexual and reproductive health group reported a whopping 44.7 percent difference between the mean hourly earnings of male and female staff members.

Since last year the U.K. government has required companies and NGOs with more than 250 employees to declare their gender pay gap annually.

There is no official list of aid organizations that fall under the regulation, but all 16 major nonprofits reviewed by Devex reported a gender pay gap in favor of men, with an average difference of 12.4 percent.

“Part of aid and development work should be that we practice what we preach; this includes challenging traditional gender norms concerning who can pursue their career and who cannot.”

— Gemma Houldey, practitioner and researcher in the aid sector

It represents a small dip of 0.2 percentage points from last year’s average for the U.K. aid sector, as analyzed by Devex.

The worst offender was again Marie Stopes International, although it reported a slight improvement from last year. The size of the gap is largely caused by the distribution of roles in its U.K. abortion clinics but the report also covers its global support office, which works on its international development programs in 37 low- and middle-income countries.

A spokesperson told Devex: “In the last year, we have strengthened the processes we have in place to ensure fair remuneration, and the mean gender pay gap in our global support office has narrowed from 7.9 percent to 4.8 percent. We are committed to eliminating this gap altogether.”

“The gender pay gap in our U.K. clinic network remains persistently high, reflecting a structural under-representation of women in senior clinical roles in abortion care. This challenge requires longer-term change within institutions across the health care sector, and we remain committed to being part of that change.”

A number of nonprofits saw their gender pay gaps grow over the year. At Sightsavers, it rose from 1 percent to 4.9 percent, but the charity still has the lowest gap among the groups that reported. The pay difference between men and women also rose at Islamic Relief Worldwide, the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development, and UNICEF U.K.

Professionals expressed concern that more progress had not been made across the sector, especially given that women made up the majority of the workforce at most of the nonprofits analyzed.

Jane Salmonson, chief executive of Scotland’s International Development Alliance, commented that “the lack of movement in closing the gender pay gap in our sector in the U.K. is very disappointing.” She added that initial analysis of international NGOs in its network suggested smaller groups are doing better when it comes to female leadership. “Only around a third of NGOs with an annual turnover exceeding £1 million ($1.3 million) have women leaders, compared with just under half of those with an annual income less than £1 million,” she said. IDA hopes to present more research later in the year to help explain why.

Gemma Houldey, who has worked for several U.K. aid organizations and recently completed a Ph.D. on stress in the aid sector, said: “Unfortunately the gender pay gap among U.K. aid organizations reflects a broader problem of inequality within the sector, whereby it is particular people — largely white men from the global north — who are at the top.”

“This is despite the workforce being comprised largely of women, and on an international level, of staff from countries in the global south ... Part of aid and development work should be that we practice what we preach; this includes challenging traditional gender norms concerning who can pursue their career and who cannot, and overcoming power imbalances where some staff's credentials are more valued than others.”

Organizations in the U.K. are required to report both the mean and median gender pay gap based on hourly pay. While some news outlets use the median gender pay gap as more representative of a “typical” employee, Devex has chosen to use the mean to better reflect the absence of women in higher-paying jobs.

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.