Closing the gap
To accompany the publishing of Connexus' Gender Pay Gap Report, Director of People Jo Tracey reflects on how far we've come.
It’s perhaps hard to believe that in the twenty-first century the gender pay gap is still a problem. After all, it’s been over 50 years since the Equal Pay Act (1970) was brought in to try to ensure that men and women are paid the same amount for doing the same job. However, unwinding generations and layers of ingrained discrimination was never going to be anything other than a stubborn challenge.
At Connexus we’re deeply committed to fair treatment and equal opportunities, both for colleagues and customers. While we recognise that being a rural housing association can bring its own difficulties, especially in recruiting, that doesn’t mean that we can’t try to lead by example.
Let’s look at some of the numbers: in the UK, the population is roughly 49% male and 51% female. In housing associations however, 57% of jobs are taken by females. If you take a look in the boardroom however, this falls to just 45% and on average, women are still paid 8% less than men.
Connexus is a little unusual in that we employ more men than average – currently over 54%, up 1.6% since 2020 – which is probably due to having our trades colleagues in-house rather than outsourcing as many other associations do. Recruitment in this area is challenging, particularly with the effects of Brexit, the pandemic and other challenges like HS2, and this work is traditionally male dominated. At least in the short term none of this is likely to change.
Despite this we have made great strides over the past four years in trying to eliminate our mean gender pay gap. In 2018 it stood at just over 11%; this has been reduced year on year to just 1.2% in 2021. While we’re proud to be able to say that we are well below the national average, we can still acknowledge that there’s more that we need to do.
In the last year we’ve developed a new Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) policy and action plan. For example, this enables us to look outside of the housing sector to benchmark pay. This has led to a change in our approach in a number of areas, such as recruitment for new roles and starting salaries. We have increased pay for all colleagues to make sure we’re paying at least the Real Living Wage – this is above the Government’s National Minimum Wage, as it is based on annual cost of living calculations. We’re also committed to continue providing apprenticeships, and have increased the pay for these roles too.
The COVID pandemic has challenged us all, but we’ve made it through in great part due to embracing new technologies to support different ways of working. This suits some people more than others, so we’ll continue to offer flexible and hybrid ways of working where possible while also making improvements to office environments at the same time. We have also secured an increase to the colleague development budget for 2022-23.
With social purpose at the heart of everything we do, social housing can lead the way on issues of equality in general and the gender pay gap in particular. We can create safe environments for people to work, live and learn. But it will take a strong resolve and continued commitment to bring about the change we are determined to see.