Closing the gap

Guest blog posted in Reporting, Employee on 29 January 2019 By Jason Hesse, Corporate Communications Manager at Channel 4

Diversity has always been at the heart of Channel 4. From our very inception, we have been proud to champion difference and have, over time, come to be recognised as a leader in diversity.

When we calculated our 2017 gender pay gap, it was clearly not where we wanted it to be. The numbers made for uncomfortable reading, showing a mean pay gap of 28.6% between male and female staff. For an organisation like ours, which champions inclusion and diversity, this was not a result we were happy with.

Addressing the gap

As a result, we undertook in-depth analysis of the numbers, to determine the root causes of the gender pay gap. This identified two key factors: a higher proportion of men in senior positions, and having nearly twice as many women as men in the lower two quartiles. We decided to focus on tackling the former, as it would be perverse for us to focus on reducing the number of women in the lower quartiles. Improving the gender balance in the highest-paid roles would have a substantial impact on reducing our gap.

Setting out clear targets was important – for achieving change, but also to show our internal and external stakeholders that we were proactively addressing the issue. We announced a target of 50:50 gender balance among our top 100 earners by 2023, as this would have a substantial impact on reducing our gender pay gap. We also introduced a new Women’s Development Programme, Rise, to help us to build the talent pipeline we need to enact long-term cultural change within the organisation.

Communicating the gap

The way in which we communicated our strategy to  internal and external stakeholders was incredibly important. Our first report needed to serve different roles: to publish our numbers, and to explain clearly and concisely what a gender pay gap is, how it is calculated, and how it differs from equal pay.. To do this and tell our story, we relied on both narrative text and infographics. Simplifying the concepts was a challenge, but it was of the utmost importance. We commissioned a review by an external counsel, which verified that Channel 4 is fully compliant with equal pay law. It was important to distinguish between equal pay and the gender pay gap as we published our first gender pay gap report amid the media firestorm around equal pay in March 2018.

To communicate the difference between equal pay and gender pay to our staff, we created a short video to outline what they mean, how the gap is calculated, and what we are doing to tackle it. We also put together a Q&A document for our Heads of Department, ensuring that they were adequately briefed and able to answer any questions. We also briefed our Heads of Department in person and organised meetings with our employee resource group, 4Women, to ensure that they were part of the process. This initiative was supported by external comms, including our chief executive appearing on Channel 4 News to discuss our results.

The exercise has been important. Yes, the way that the numbers must be calculated is imperfect – the methodology has plenty of holes in it – but the legislation’s purpose has been positive, ensuring that organisations think seriously about pay, who makes up their leadership, and how women can progress throughout their careers. Plus being publicly held accountable for their numbers.

Reporting the gap

We were pleased to proactively report our second set of numbers in October 2018, only a few months after our 2017 report was released. We had reduced our mean gender pay gap by more than one-fifth, from 28.6% in 2017 to 22.6% in 2018. It shows that our action plan is working: the number of women in our top 100 earners increased to 41 in 2018, up from 34 in 2017.

In conjunction with our second gender pay gap report, and although there was no regulatory requirement to do so, we decided to publish our first BAME pay gap report. Our data showed that we have a mean BAME pay gap of 19.1%. Again, these results were not acceptable and highlight that BAME employees are not represented enough at the more senior levels of Channel 4. We chose to publish these figures in order to be fully transparent with our data and to demonstrate our commitment to inclusion and diversity within the workplace. Our HR data is also robust enough for the numbers to be meaningful, so we made the decision to use them publicly.

As with our gender pay gap, we set out a clear strategy to achieve change with our BAME pay gap. This includes a goal for 20% of our leadership group falling under the BAME category – this means that in addition to recruitment at the entry level, we need to tackle the important issues that drive change, such as progression and retention. On the communications side, we included our BAME pay gap in our pay report, which was shared internally and externally. We engaged staff through Q&As, meetings and a video from our chief executive, ensuring that all staff were able to ask questions and participate with our plan.

We fully recognise that we still have a lot of work to do, but the key takeaway is that, through the publication of these numbers, we have been able to fully commit to becoming the fully inclusive organisation that we aspire to be.



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