U.K. Financial Firms Say Gender Pay Gaps Aren't Getting Smaller

(Bloomberg) -- With only a few weeks to go before the deadline for U.K. firms to disclose their gender pay gaps, more than 77 percent of the country’s financial firm’s haven’t filed their reports. Among those that have, the results aren’t that encouraging.

At nearly 100 companies in the financial sector, women earn on average 28 percent less than men do. That’s little changed from the average pay gap the sector’s biggest firms reported last year, the first time companies with more than 250 employees in the U.K. were required to disclose their gender pay gaps.

Across all the firms that filed disclosures last year, the average gender pay gap was about 13 percent. The financial sector included some of the bigger outliers.

HSBC Holdings Plc has already reported a mean pay gap of 61 percent, more than the sector-high 59 percent discrepancy it reported last year. The gap largely reflects the uneven gender makeup in the bank’s workforce: Women comprise 70 percent of the lowest-paid quartile of employees but just 33 percent of the highest-paid.

The bank says it’s working improve its gender balance at all levels, strengthening the women leaders in its pipeline and supporting families through flexible work patterns. “Improving our gender balance will take time and require sustained focus over the long-term,” HSBC concluded in its report on gender pay posted to its website.

In general, the differences from last year’s disclosures have been minimal.

U.K. Financial Firms Say Gender Pay Gaps Aren't Getting Smaller

“Let’s get on with it, and quicker,” said former Virgin Money Chief Executive Jayne-Anne Gadhia. She now leads a government task force on the representation of women in senior roles in the financial service industry, a key factor cited by many companies when reporting large pay gaps. “Companies are not yet making this the priority it needs to be.”

Hermes Investment Management, the fund management group that promised to vote against board chairs who fail to address gender imbalance at the highest levels, has reported a 27 percent pay gap.

Under a future Labour government, life could be much tougher for firms who don’t file on time or whose pay gap is getting wider. “We need to make it mandatory for large companies to conduct audits alongside action plans,” Dawn Butler, the Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities, said on Twitter Friday.

“Those with good gender practices should receive government certification, while those that fail to take action face fines,” she suggested. “This is the only way to close the pay gap.”

Her colleague Rachel Reeves, chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee, said the industry needs to fix itself: “Hire more women in executive positions.”

Gender pay gaps are highest in sectors with few women in leadership, she said. “It’s clear the financial sector is a guilty party when it comes to failing to recruit women to senior jobs.”

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