In 2007, Wimbledon, arguably the most iconic tennis tournament in the world, served up a ground-breaking change that is yet to be widely replicated across the sporting universe. For the first time, both the Men’s and Women’s Singles champions received the same prize money. Whilst the Wimbledon organisers weren’t exactly trailblazers in this way (indeed they were the last Grand Slam tournament to level the playing field financially), it was still a major victory in the fight for equal pay with the lofty profile of the tournament helping shine a spotlight on the pay disparity issue.

Up until this point, men collected typically higher prize money [1] than women in most of the tournaments. Opponents to this equalisation of prize money winnings argue that men attract larger crowds than women and men’s tournaments last longer due to them playing ‘best of 5’ sets. As a result, they claim that men deserve to be better compensated for their winning efforts and that the pay gap should endure.

However, this argument assumes that the work of a professional sports person is limited only to their time spent playing matches and ignores everything that goes on around that – time spent training, working on fitness and nutrition etc. More pertinently, this argument ignores that the prize money awarded to champions is done so to reward the tournament’s ‘best player’ i.e. the person who beats every opponent put in front of them [2]. It’s not a salaried job or calculated on an hourly rate of pay – it’s more like a bonus for a job well done.

Wimbledon in 2007 was a high-profile example of championing pay equality but the issue of equal pay for both genders is a problem affecting many workplaces, not just in professional sport. Men and women often receive different remuneration due to societal myths and perceptions and establishing equal pay is an endeavour that requires an in-depth understanding of the issue.

British Gas (via parent company Centrica), like many large companies working in traditionally male-dominated industries, is yet to achieve equal pay for men and women. The imbalance has been largely caused by an uneven distribution of the sexes in the business and their positions. Due to this imbalance, bridging the pay gap will not be simple. More advocacies are needed in motivating and inspiring women to pursue careers that are perceived as masculine. When more women join male-dominated professions, a better balance between the genders can be established. However, not all circumstances of pay differences are about uneven numbers in gender. Some are merely men earning more than women, yet all of them are at the same professional level. This is essentially where men get paid more than women for doing the same work, for the same hours at the same level in the company.

Addressing Unequal Pay

Here at British Gas, women and men are viewed impartially and provided with equal terms for working. Although the organisation is above the 18% median gender pay gap in the UK [3], work is being done to resolve this. There has been an embracing of three strategies that aim to be a lasting solution to a problem that has negatively affected the job market for decades:

Attraction

To attract more women to the business, leadership teams have set internal targets to achieve greater gender parity, recruiters have been tasked with sourcing greater diversity whilst resourcing teams undergo unconscious bias training to increase fairness when hiring. The business’ strong female role models also play a key role in getting more female involvement in the STEM (science, technology, engineering & maths) subjects. This, in turn, aims to see more women skilled in the areas that will help get them into more traditionally male-dominated industries such as energy.

 Development

Employees are presented with development opportunities such as joining mentoring programmes and networks.
We are active members of the 30% Club which is a ‘cross-company, cross-sector mentoring programme for mid-career women’ [3]. The programme aims to see more women getting into senior leadership roles in the future.
Internally, employees can join the Women’s Network giving access to female role models, relevant events and other opportunities for personal development/growth.

Retention

To assist in employee retention, a new set of company values was brought in to help create a culture of true inclusiveness. Flexible working practices (including offering up to one month’s paid leave for employees with carer responsibilities) allow workers to better balance family commitments with their work lives. Policies and procedures have also been improved following consultation with employees returning from maternity leave about the challenges women face upon returning to work. As part of this, a mentoring programme for new parents was set up in 2018.

[1] https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/07/wimbledon-women-equal-prize-money/

[2] https://payjustice.co.uk/blog/equal-pay-for-equal-work-at-wimbledon/

[3] https://www.centrica.com/sites/default/files/responsibility/centrica_gender_pay_statement.pdf

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