Can a Twitter bot and salary transparency plug the gender pay gap?

A twitter account has been calling out the gender pay gaps of various businesses

A Twitter bot has become something of a gender pay gap activist by calling out the gender pay gaps in businesses that proclaimed their support for women on International Women’s Day (IWD).

The Gender Pay Gap Bot has been publishing the gender pay gap data of various businesses, revealing their efforts at gender equality to be shallow.

A variety of businesses, from tech and fashion retail firms to public sector organisations, have been exposed by the bot due to their virtue signalling over female empowerment, including the low impact that’s going on behind their so-called IWD initiatives.

Since it began calling out the pay gaps of businesses promoting International Women’s Day, some have even deleted their original tweets, showcasing their performative allyship on women’s equality.

Today, the bot called out UK video game developer Sumo Digital after it posted a tweet advertising its IWD-themed panel event by stating its median hourly pay for women, which is 23.4% lower than men’s.

One of the UK’s biggest e-commerce success stories, Missguided, announced it was giving away cash prizes in honour of International Women’s Day. In response, the bot published the women’s fashion retailer’s gender pay gap, where women’s median hourly pay is a whopping 40% less than men.

The public sector hasn’t been spared the wrath of the bot, with female pay deficits at Gateshead Council and Surrey Police exposed. Women’s median hourly pay at the local authority was 7% lower than men’s, while median hourly pay for women at the police department was 21.5% lower.

Proclaiming allyship with women yet failing to pay them an equal wage is a gutsy act, especially as people can now easily find out the truth. Since 2017, UK employers with a workforce of 250 or more have to submit their gender pay data. Because of this change in legislation, the bot was able to gather data from the Government’s online portal, which allows anyone to compare the gender pay gaps of large companies.

Now, women understand the hypocrisy of businesses feigning care about their interests when it’s their commercial reputation they’re looking to strengthen, also known as greenwashing.

Originally, the term greenwashing referred to companies putting forward an image of being environmentally conscious to please stakeholders without making any real efforts to change.

This description can now be extended to firms engaged in various performative social-impact activities, such as businesses that adopted the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter following George Floyd’s murder without following up with any real inclusion measures for Black and other people of colour in their organisation.

The firms that took to Twitter to shout about their support for their female workforce and related IWD initiatives, yet have stark gender pay gaps, can now be added to this group of greenwashers.

The grim reality of women’s pay inequality, highlighted by the bot, is backed up by the Office of National Statistics (ONS), whose latest 2021 findings revealed that men earned 7.9% more than women that year.

While the Twitter bot has helped raise awareness about gender pay gaps in businesses through good old-fashioned naming and shaming, the conversation on the gender pay gap can’t stop there. Processes must be established to get women closer to men’s pay, and could salary transparency be the answer?

One way to help plug the gender pay gap for women is to empower them to negotiate for higher salaries, and the Government has announced a ‘pay transparency pilot scheme‘ with participating businesses told to publish salary details on job postings and not to ask about past salaries to help achieve this.

A statement made by the Government about the scheme read: “Evidence shows listing a salary range on a job advert and not asking applicants to disclose salary history provides a firm footing for women to negotiate pay on a fairer basis. This could have a significant impact in closing salary gaps and tackling pay inequality.”

If a significant number of businesses sign up, or if pay transparency becomes compulsory for employers listing jobs across the UK, we may see things start to change for women. Especially if salaries are no longer a dirty secret to hide that excludes women and other minorities from achieving pay equity.

Whether the Government initiative will actually lead to real change to help close the gender pay gap, or if it’s another case of performative activism from businesses to look good, we’ll just have to wait and see.

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