The Salary Guide is the latest in a string of reports and surveys pointing to the regression of gender equality across the country – setting it back years, if not a decade, in a matter of months.
At the coalface of this work, I encounter these case studies in real life and on a regular basis. Being a woman during this pandemic has not been easy.
It’s been widely acknowledged that the unrealistic expectations for employees to juggle work with caring duties has had a significant impact on women’s mental health, as well as their career progression and remuneration.
What’s less reported is the number of cases of domestic abuse and violence, which are on the rise across the sector; or the prevalence of sexual harassment during the pandemic, which now threatens to bubble over post-lockdown – something I’m currently hoping to tackle alongside the PRCA, and we will be releasing details on this later this month.
But before we disappear completely down the rabbit hole of despair, I would like to shed some very important and optimistic light on one significant difference between women now and previously on our journey for equality. We are different.
Changing work patterns
The pandemic has shifted the modus operandi. We no longer prize a high salary over quality of life and realise we can have both. The entire sector was forced to work flexibly and remotely, and lo and behold the wheels did not fall off nor didi the sky come falling in – so we can hail the death of presenteeism.
Plus, there have never in the history of our sector been more new SME agencies or consultancies emerging and flourishing, most of whom have fantastic corporate ethics and senior women directly at, or supporting, the helm.
Yes it is deeply saddening that in the financial and corporate sectors women have been more likely to be made redundant or have their salaries cut, and by a greater amount. But the companies and their bosses who believe this behaviour is acceptable, – or, worse, are ignorant of the issue and incompetent – risk becoming as extinct as the dodo in our brave new world.
I had the immense pleasure of judging PRWeek’s Best Places to Work this year and was amazed at the progress being made across the large agency category I was entrusted with.
The agencies that truly prioritise diversity with exemplary maternity policies, plus a raft of additional measures in place to ensure women are promoted and paid equally, had a wealth of senior female leadership across their business. It was also clear that these businesses saw this practice positively impacting their bottom line and had ridiculously high retention rates – because those smart female grad senior account executives could see a clear career path to the top of the business.
The price of failure on fair pay
Failure to take note of this and to implement change comes at your own peril – many of the women scorned by their discriminatory employers will go to competitors, or set up their own competitor business.
I set up my business because I was one of those statistics – undervalued, underpaid and criticised for a ‘lack of visibility’ after having my first son.
Yes, sometimes I work from my kitchen table and there might be a child in the background, but does that devalue the advice I’m providing to the chief executive or the analysis of the data I’m immersed in? No, it doesn’t.
And the sooner we (collective women) realise that and are confident enough to challenge the status quo again and push for equality once more, I think we will be pleasantly surprised at how much progress we can make.
Anna Geffert is president of Women in PR and founder of Hera Communication Strategies