W H Smith and Blackwell's reveal gender pay gap

W H Smith and Blackwell's reveal gender pay gap

Booksellers Blackwell’s and W H Smith have revealed their gender pay gap data, both beating the national median average.

While Blackwell’s has an average median gender pay gap of 1.8% and W H Smith has no median gender pay gap (0%), both better than the UK national average of 18.4%, the difference between what they pay men and women in bonuses is notable – a median gender pay gap of 48.7% for W H Smith and 25.6% for Blackwell’s.

Both retailers also show larger hourly pay rate gaps between the sexes when it comes to mean averages. W H Smith’s is at 20%, higher than the national average of 17.4%, while Blackwell’s is 11.5%.

The retailers have revealed the hourly pay gap and bonus data in compliance with new government legislation, slightly ahead of the deadline on 4th April. The gender pay gap is the difference between the average earnings for men and women, which is different to discrimination on equal pay, which is against the law. The median average is the figure that falls in middle of all employees' salaries from lowest to highest paid, while the mean is calculated by dividing the total wages of a company by its number of staff.

Like other firms to have disclosed gender pay gaps in the book business, both W H Smith and Blackwell’s have attributed gender pay gap differences to having a higher number of men in senior positions –despite W H Smith’s workforce being 65% female, women make up only 27% of its senior management team, the retailer revealed, and just a third of its board are women. When taking into account its upper pay quartile (the salaries of the top-earning 25% of people in the company), the chain’s median gender pay gap is 11.9%, while the median is 23.7%.

The retailer, led by chief executive Stephen Clarke, said its salary benchmarking and benefits were “gender neutral”, but the data revelations marked a “key step change” for the firm, and one it vowed to “embrace”.

“Transparency is essential as we work to create a business culture which reflects the society we live and work in today,” said group HR director Anthony Lawrence. “The gender pay gap will only disappear when we have more women participating in senior management and leadership roles, and, at W H Smith, we are on a pathway to making this happen.”

The company has worked hard to promote a culture of inclusion and diversity, it said, but added there was “still more to do”.

It plans to develop its “succession pipeline” of women ready for promotion by having its most senior female executives act as mentors to support women further down the chain, and has also created internal networking and development programmes to boost employees’ self-awareness, resilience, negotiation, management and leadership skills, which it thinks will help reduce the pay gap.

Other initiatives involve continuing to have gender-balanced shortlists for recruitment at senior executive level, being a member of the 30% Club, which helps businesses create sustainable strategies to increase the number of women in senior executive roles, and partnering with workingmums.co.uk to raise its brand profile as a family-friendly employer.

Blackwell’s, meanwhile, has also said it is “committed” to reducing its gender pay gap.

“Whilst we have equal pay throughout the organisation the gender pay gap in Blackwell’s is caused by an under-representation of women at senior leadership levels and within our team of software engineers who attract higher salaries compared to our bookselling teams,” said Kate Stillborn, customer service and operations director. “As a traditional family firm with integrity and respect at the heart of our values, Blackwell’s want to be part of the cultural change that leads to greater equality in the workplace.”

The bookseller, which reported earlier this week it’s turnover was up 12% for the year to June 2017, believes it will have better motivated and more effective employees if it enables people to “work flexibly at any life stage if that is the right thing for them”.

Sabbaticals, for example, may enable women or men to take time out of their careers to take care of elderly relatives, spend time with grandchildren or gain training or experience in a specific area whilst enabling Blackwell’s to retain talent and highly motivated employees for the long term, the company said.

However, it also wants to support women to gain the skills and confidence to progress into the most senior roles, which it is doing through succession planning and proactively encouraging and developing talent, as well as expanding formal mentoring schemes.

In addition it is reviewing its policies to ensure they promote equality and flexibility and supporting part time working wherever roles allow it.

Companies employing over 250 have to report their gender pay gaps by 4th April. So far, publishers Hachette, Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Pearson and Springer Nature have released their figures. Waterstones and Amazon are yet to do so.

On Monday, The Bookseller reported that women in publishing have reacted with anger to the broad pay gaps revealed. A senior woman at Hachette, who preferred to speak anonymously, said at the time: "The data confirms my long-held suspicions about pay and bonuses in publishing, and reflects the institutional sexism in much of the industry. We need to see immediate action addressing these disgraceful numbers. And I speak from a very privileged position. I can only imagine how those less privileged must feel. I trust this is the beginning of real change."

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