9th May 2019

Should recruiters be held responsible for closing the gender pay gap?


For all the talk of an equal workplace, employers across the world are struggling to address the gender pay gap. There is still an 8.6% difference in the wages of UK male and female full-time employees, while in North America, women only earn 85% of their male counterparts’ wages. In fact, the US gender pay gap has only narrowed slightly since 1980.
Things are slowly improving, but there’s still a lot of work to be done. And these figures only show the national average; certain sectors are a lot further behind when it comes to equalising the salaries of male and female employees.
As a key negotiator in working contracts, recruitment agencies can play a critical role in helping staff to secure the right pay packet for their level experience – male and female. So next time you’re trying to find the right candidate for a role, consider some ways you can enhance the recruitment process to create equal opportunities for men and women…

Eliminate bias from the hiring process

One of the main strengths you offer as a recruiter is the ability to mediate between parties. Whether conscious or not, many employers make decisions about an applicant as soon as they see their CV, based on their gender, name, age and location.
You have the opportunity to hold back personal data that may unintentionally influence who clients invite to interview, ensuring that the best candidates are shortlisted for the role, and negotiate a preliminary salary package based purely on their skills and experience.
Eliminating bias can prove particularly effective in sectors that have the widest pay gaps; for example, a recent UK civil engineering sector study found that only two major companies have adopted a completely ‘blind’ recruitment process, yet it is one of the worst offending industries for paying women less than men.
There are even AI-powered tools coming to market that help this process by automatically scanning profiles to create shortlists based on skills, not sex. However, beware historic data negatively influencing future results; for example, Amazon’s AI recruitment tool began to automatically adopt anti-female bias when it trialled the technology, marking down any applicant who used the word ‘women’ in their CV.

Use insights to create equality

Successful recruitment agencies build long-lasting client relationships, as this is an easier way to generate income than constantly finding new business. And working with companies on a repeat basis gives you unique insight into their promotion and pay structure.
Make sure that all the businesses you are collaborating with offer equal salary packages to male and female workers, appropriate for their skillset and pay grade. If job descriptions are like-for-like, compensation should be too.
You can also look at company culture to identify where other influences could be preventing men and women from accessing skilled positions. For example, many women are forced into taking lower paid jobs that they are overqualified for once they become parents, as they simply can’t get flexible or part-time roles to fit their childcare availability and budget.
Getting your clients to embrace new ways of working such as flexible hours, remote working options and shared parental leave can create a differentiator that attracts better quality contractors. From there, you can negotiate salaries based on finding the best candidate for the role – male or female.

Lead by example

Despite being able to see how other sectors pay their workers, recruitment agencies don’t always secure a fair deal for their own staff. Male recruitment consultants earn on average 14% more than their female counterparts, which equates to more than £5,000 per year.
Leading by example is the best way to end the gender pay gap, as you can educate clients first-hand on the value that equalising salaries for female contractors will bring to their business. In a world of equal pay, those businesses will be able to cherry pick the best of the best, who will stay loyal to their organisation and continue to add value long-term.
Using your own business as a success story is a great way to inspire, and also ensure that you encourage clients from a place of authority – rather than asking them to ‘do as I say, not as I do’.

Find the resources to fund equal pay

Ultimately, as an expert in helping businesses to create compelling offers for potential contractors, recruitment agencies have a duty to help their clients ensure gender equality for all employees. And if you lead by example, you can use your learnings to remove any obstacles that are enabling gender pay gaps.
One common excuse that companies give for not adjusting their wage structure is that they simply cannot afford to pay people more. As a recruitment agency, however, there are a number of operational changes you can make to free up money for staff remuneration.
An easy way to boost business cash flow is to help employees work smarter, by removing the drain of low value, day-to-day admin. Too many talented employees waste time on menial tasks like formatting timesheets, raising invoices and chasing late payments. While these are essential to helping your business operate effectively, they don’t contribute to the nurturing of new business opportunities.
The best route to reducing admin overload is to invest in recruitment back office technology that automates all these regular processes. By using intelligent tools to submit timesheets and create invoices and chase payments, the process for billing clients and securing payment is much quicker – generating additional business cash flow.
Not only that, but recruitment agencies can ensure their staff focus on higher value tasks, which bring in new business and justify higher wages.
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