Time for the PR industry to put its money where its mouth is on equal pay

Autumn 2016 may come to be seen as a turning point in the debate around equal pay for women in the PR industry, as the PRCA moves to compel agency members to include gender pay gap reporting in its quality kitemark.

Be on the right side of history when it comes to gender pay reporting, argues Ian Griggs
Be on the right side of history when it comes to gender pay reporting, argues Ian Griggs
But why is this move significant? 

Well, it could mark the end of the stage when warm words from agencies about how they will not tolerate a pay gap to exist at their company suffice to give the impression that the industry is doing something about it - and not before time.

I have always believed it would take compulsion for agency-land to put its house in order on the gender pay gap since I began reporting on the issue two years ago,

This is not because I believe the industry to be inherently sexist, although certainly, pockets of that attitude undoubtedly exist, but because agencies - particularly those that range from small to medium-sized – have '99 priorities and gender pay equality ain't one'.

As more than one industry leader has said to me in private since the last big moment in this debate a year ago: for agencies, this is not a business-critical issue.

But it is a business-critical issue and here's why.

Study after study shows how the next generation of workers in this country – those oft-discussed ‘millennials’ - simply won’t put up with either the off-hand sexism or straight lack of action that has allowed the gender pay gap to become so entrenched in the PR industry.

Of course, gender pay reporting is not an end in itself. But once this data becomes available, the agency - as well as it's existing and potential staff - have the opportunity to act on it. 

How will both sides react?

Almost every agency chief I have interviewed about the challenges they face points to recruitment and retention as a major issue.

If agencies wish to recruit and retain the very best that the next generation of PR talent can offer, they will have to up their game and make staff a better and more transparent offer when it comes to salaries.

The PRCA’s bold move is to be praised and, as its member agencies begin to adopt gender pay reporting as part of their accreditation, a natural momentum will take place until more of the significant PR agencies in the UK have published their data than those which have not. 

As the tide turns, it will undoubtedly present those which have not done so in a less flattering light. 

For a profession that prides itself on being forward-looking, the PR industry can be terribly archaic on issues around gender pay, maternity practices and flexible working.

This must change in order for the former not to be seen as a façade for the latter.

So I would urge agency-land not to be on the wrong side of history and to forgo being in the second half of agencies that were slow to adopt these measures.

Change is coming. So get ready for it.

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