Almost half of the companies included in a list of businesses feted as the best places to work as a woman in the UK have a gender pay gap higher than the national average. Of the subsidiaries of companies included on the Times Top 50 Employers for Women list in 2017, more than 9 in 10 pay women less than they pay men on average, with almost half of the companies reporting a gender pay gap greater than 18.4% - The national average as calculated by the Office of National Statistics.

Analysis also shows that more than 4 in 10 FTSE 100 Companies, based on subsidiaries which were required to report, have a gender pay gap higher than the national average and nine in 10 report they pay women less than men on average.

In the public sector, analysis of gender pay audit data published by 293 Councils shows that 193 had reported an average pay difference of more than 5% - The threshold deemed "significant" by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

The figures were revealed as businesses published the difference between what they pay men and women for the first time on 4th April. More than 10,000 companies reported figures with almost 300 subsidiaries of FTSE 100 companies among those reporting.

Sam Smethers, chief executive of the Fawcett Society said the gender pay gap was a complex indicator of inequality in the workplace. "Even good employers can have significant pay gaps," she said. "What matters is their action plan to tackle it and deal with any inequality they find."

A Pearson subsidiary reported the biggest gender pay gap among FTSE 100 Companies. Pearson Shared Services, a technology and operations firm, reported a median hourly gap of 60% meaning that on average a woman at the company is paid 40p for every £1 earned by a man. Women also make up 18% of the top earners, despite accounting for a third of the workforce. Four out of five Pearson subsidiaries reported a gender pay gap and the publisher reported an average gap of 15% across the entire company.

Across the public sector generally the average pay difference between men and women's pay was less than half that in the rest of the economy. Indeed, many councils recorded a 'negative pay gap' meaning women were paid more on average than men. Where there were significant disparities found,  Arun D.C. reported the highest average gender pay gap with men earning a mean hourly rate which was 31.7% higher than that for women. The Local Government Chronicle found that the greatest factor affecting a council's overall pay gap difference as an average was the percentage of women working in the bottom 25% of pay grades.

A report commissioned by Sadiq Khan into ethnic pay inequality at the GLA Group cited similar reasons for the ethnic pay gap, revealing significant earnings difference between white people employed by the GLA Group and those from a BAME background. 

Sadiq Khan conceded "This sort of injustice takes many years to develop and it becomes deeply entrenched...we are determined to promote fairness for all workers, and remedy any unfair disadvantage against BAME people."

Global advertising agency WPP also reported large differences in what they pay men and women on average, reporting a gap pf 14.6% across the company, excluding its associates. Other FTSE companies with subsidiaries which reported gaps of more than 45% were Anglo American, Tui, St James's Place, SSE and easyJet.

Among the companies with the highest pay gaps on the Times Top 50 Employers for Women list are subsidiaries of major banks - JP Morgan Ltd (54%), Morgan Stanley Employment Services Uk (46.2%), Barclays Bank Plc (43.5%) and Lloyds Bank Plc (42.7%).

If there is a salutory lesson that should be distilled from all of this; it is incontrovertibly that the most meaningful and sustainable way to address the gender and ethnic pay gap is to ensure that the UK workplace better reflects UK society. With a more proportionate representation of women, ethnic minorities and people with disabilities at all levels of organisations, particularly within the boardroom which traditionally has been the domain of the white, able-bodied, Anglo-saxon male.

About the author

Glanville Williams is an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Specialist.