In 2017, the UK Government announced that top businesses in Britain would be required to release data pertaining to their gender and ethnicity pay gaps. In a bid to court skilled women amid a tightening talent market, many of the top professional services industry entities released this information in advance, in order to demonstrate a determination to tackle the lingering issue. The first of the sector’s Big Four to do so was PwC, which employs more than 19,000 people in the UK, with women at the firm earning a mean average 13.7% less than men across the entire company.
The figures released by the firm were accompanied by its assertion that good progress was being made on the matter, falling from 15% the year before. In line with this, a wider inclusion agenda had already seen PwC recognised as a Times Top 50 employer for women, and the firm’s mean gap was the lowest of the Big Four, in stark contrast to competitor EY, which stood at almost 20%. However PwC also faced a considerable deficit in gendered bonuses – with men taking home a huge 37.5% more in bonuses than female staff – and a major disparity in terms of gender representation in senior roles.
Despite the firm emphasising so-called returnships, for ushering women back into careers with the firm after coming back from an extended break, as well as via mentoring programs and by instituting targets for women in senior leadership to combat this gap, at the time, the firm’s gender divide seems to have deepened in the year since. According to the most recent figures, PwC’s mean gender pay gap for Partners is 17.1%, and its mean BAME Partner pay gap is 5.4%. While this is a different statistic from the 13.7% across the whole firm in 2017, the 2018 figures pertaining to Partners are the worst of any Big Four member.
Commenting on the statistics after their release, Kevin Ellis, PwC’s Chairman – who was recently listed as a key ally for ethnic minorities in the workplace – said, “The increase in our gender and BAME pay gaps when partners are included highlights our need for more women and ethnic minorities in senior positions, including within the partnership. To be clear, we pay our women and men equally for doing the same or equivalent jobs across our business. The issue is one of senior representation rather than pay inequality and it is not good enough.”
On the back of this, PwC has become the first of its competitors to ban all-male job shortlists at executive level at the start of the summer. At present, women make up 48% of the workforce with PwC, and the firm is working to make its recruitment process more diverse by increasing the number of women who are being promoted to senior roles. PwC’s recently set a target of recruiting 50% men and 50% women in all of the group’s recruitment drives is one way PwC is hoping to tackle such a high pay gap.
PwC’s Chief People Officer Laura Hinton said that diverse hiring practices at a senior level could be a “real challenge” because candidates tended to be “disproportionately male”. She added, “The challenge is making sure that at every stage in the process we are saying yes to get the right person and not excluding. The objective is to keep pushing and to encourage others to do the same.”
PwC is not alone, as Deloitte, KPMG, and EY have each sought greater diversity on their job candidate lists. KPMG similarly places important on returners, having introduced an initiative which offers coaching for mothers and fathers before they go away on parental leave, while they are away, and then when they return. Following PwC’s lead, KPMG has also directly said that they have a ‘no tolerance’ policy when it comes to all-male recruitment lists, however Deloitte and EY are yet to implement a complete ban, in response to their competitors. Instead, the duo have said they look to employ a diverse range of people to make up their workforce.
While Melanie Richards, Deputy Chair of KPMG, is keen to address imbalance, however, she also suggested she did not want to alienate men in the process, claiming, “One has to be measured and balanced — there are dangers of looking like we are positively discriminating… We have a good pool of female talent, but we don’t want to push that artificially.”
Women currently make up less than 20% of Partner roles at KPMG and Deloitte. Deloitte is looking to raise its current target of 30% female partners by 2030 to 40%, and while EY’s Partners are currently 80% men, the firm is also looking to change this, though a more balanced graduate intake – albeit still 58% men. The firm also aims for newly promoted Partners to be at least 30% female, while it hopes to balance out gender in lower paid roles which tend to be taken up mainly by women.