We must get our equality house in order

It is absolutely shameful that the average pay gap between the sexes is £12,000.

Stephen Waddington: "Doing nothing isn’t an option."
Stephen Waddington: "Doing nothing isn’t an option."

The CIPR’s State of the Profession survey is a watershed moment in determining whether we are happy with the status quo of public relations.

With future skills, converging departments and changing demands, alongside views on professional standards, all up for discussion, it has naturally provoked healthy debate.

In my view, the biggest issue that needs tackling is that in 2014, the average pay gap between the sexes is £12,000. That is absolutely shameful. My 15-year-old daughter nailed it: "Dad, that is plainly nonsense."

Whether you cut the data in terms of an average pay gap or an imbalance in seniority, it is unacceptable that men are, on average, earning more than women – even when performing exactly the same roles.

So what can we do to drive change?

The recently launched PRWeek Mentoring Project, which strives to nurture young female leaders, is a start. But this alone isn’t going to cure this particular public relations pandemic.

Employers must be on the front foot when it comes to gender and equality. The Equality Act gives women (and men) a right to equal pay for equal work, and practically, the Equality and Human Rights Commission has a five-step equal-pay audit model that you can follow to lead this transformation.

In addition, flexible working should not be an issue for any employer. In a 24/7 world of social media, rolling news and organisational transparency, the very same technology also enables remote access, and the opportunity for leadership to exist outside the four walls of the office.

Those concerned about whether they are being discriminated against also need to stand up and be counted. This is a tough task and I would urge people to seek support for networks within organisations such as the CIPR.

Equal pay, alongside equality in the boardroom, is a key pillar of any professional discipline. It has also proven to be a key driver of profitable growth.

We can bang the drum of professional standards and skills development all day long – but getting our house in order when it comes to all forms of equality is critical.

Doing nothing isn’t an option.

Stephen Waddington is CIPR president, and digital and social media director of Ketchum Europe

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