How to Close the Gender Pay Gap

By amandaalexander | Leadership

Sage is a global company and the UK’s biggest tech company.  They have 13,500 employees – 53% male and 47% female. 27.5% of those women are in technical roles – and anyone who knows about the gender bias in tech, will recognize that this figure is right on top of the bell curve.  This is a company that says they are passionate about diversity and inclusion. But the thing is – they MEAN IT!

I’ve collaborated with Sage for about four years, ever since I met Leisa Docherty, their Global Director for Diversity, Inclusion and Engagement, at a Women in Leadership Round Table in London.

Leisa invited me to facilitate a workshop for Women at Sage on “How to Enhance Your Self-Belief” in 2014 and soon after this, I was invited to join the panel of Sage Business Experts.  Last year, I interviewed Leisa for my Inspiring Women Interviews podcast show.  Along the way, I’ve got to know other Sage employees and gained an insight into their company culture.  So when I say that this company is passionate about diversity and inclusion, I speak from first hand observations of their behaviour – they always seem to walk their core values and at every level of the organisation.

I’ve just returned from the #SageSummit at ExCel in London, where I was one of their business ambassadors.  The highlight of the summit wasn’t the roadmap for the latest features of Sage products. Nor was it the fascinating advances in artificial intelligence or even their new accountancy robot baby called Pegg!


The acceleration of the digital economy

For me, the most fascinating part of the #SageSummit was the diversity session:

Technology is out-performing the rest of the UK economy at double the rate of growth, adding about £97 billion a year to our economy – an increase of 30% in the past 5 years.

(from the third annual Tech Nation Report)

But we need more talented people to catapult this fast-growing digital economy further.  We all know there is a shortage of talent in the tech sector in the UK and one of the ways we need to address that is by embracing diversity. One of the key areas of work to be done to attract diverse talent is encouraging more women into technology – and close the gender pay gap whilst we’re at it!

How to get to equal with the gender pay gap

Barbara Harvey, Managing Director of Accenture Research presented a fascinating and insightful talk during the Diversity session on closing the gender pay gap, focused on the technology sector, called “Getting to Equal”. If you’re interested in the thorny issues of closing the gender pay gap or how to attract more women into tech, then Harvey is your woman! She has the data that sheds light on where the problems lie – and some ideas on how to solve them.

Harvey showed us that getting girls interested in tech at an early age is key:  When young girls in junior school are inspired by technology, it sparks their interest and they are 25% more likely to go into technology.

This percentage increases significantly when you add three other factors into the mix:

  1. Making tech something that girls “just do”
  2. Giving tech an aura of “cool”
  3. High quality teaching


Teen Problems?

But the problem begins when girls get to high school – this is where we are failing them.  Teachers struggle with limited resources and are forced to follow a curriculum that doesn’t lend itself to cutting-edge cool technology.  According to the Accenture data, 65% of teachers say they’d rather be teaching something else other than coding.

Now, rumour has it that there are one or two rather boring Computer Studies teaches around (disclaimer – if you’re a Computer Studies Teacher reading this, then it’s NOT you, obviously!)  If girls have a boring teacher, they are 30% less likely to go on to study computing – no surprises there really.  But Barbara’s point is this:   Unless we transform the way computing is taught in our schools, we will never solve the talent gap issue, whether it’s gender-related or not.

However, the opportunity is enormous:  If we DO solve this issue and we can inspire more girls into technology, by 2025 we could triple the number of women in tech.  The knock-on benefits of this are enormous, as technology is one of the key equalisers – 55% of women board members have professional tech experience.


Becoming digitally fluent

We can get more girls into technology simply by encouraging them to use the Internet and mobile technology.  Harvey calls this “digital fluency” and her research shows that the more digitally fluent you are, the higher your chances are of finding work.  Digital fluency is fundamental to creating diverse workforces as it helps women and people from socially disadvantaged backgrounds to find work.

The figures are staggering:  By 2030, digital fluency could bring 97 million more women around the globe into paid work, close the pay gap by 21% and increase women’s income by $1.9 trillion.


Another factor that will help close the gender pay gap, according to Accenture’s research is “tech immersion”.  Women can gain an advantage by taking a course in coding, working in an IT department or continuously learning new skills. Accenture’s findings show that by 2030 tech immersion could reduce the gender pay gap by 5% and increase women’s income by $0.5 trillion.


Are women failing themselves?

The bad news is that young men are taking advantage of this enormous opportunity in technology far more than young women. Over and again, young women are making decisions that are putting them at a disadvantage from the word go. Here are a few examples from Harvey’s findings:

  • 43% of young men take a coding module compared to 30% of young women
  • 62% of young men are continuously learning new digital skills compared to 41% of young women
  • 41% of young men are up-skilled in digital tech compared to less than half that figure – 20% for young women.


Harvey’s session was an overview of Accenture’s Getting to Equal 2017 report.  The hard work really starts with identifying and implementing key solutions. Here are the key messages we should all take from Accenture’s research:

  • Improve the quality of teaching and the curriculum for computer studies courses at school
  • Make tech into one of the “cool kids” at school and promote the message that it IS something that girls as well as boys do
  • Develop innovative Initiatives to help everyone become digitally fluent – the rising tide raises all ships, after all!
  • And one that reflects my own core philosophy – Help all women to aim high, to make informed choices and to proactively manage their careers.


What do you think?…

Source for the facts and figures in this post: Getting to Equal 2017, Accenture, taken from Barbara Harvey’s talk at the #SageSummit, 6th April 2017, as observed by the author of this post, Amanda Alexander. I have attempted to represent an accurate reflection of Accenture’s “Getting to Equal” report, but please check all facts from the report itself which can be viewed here

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