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Moving the needle on equal pay

Words by Sabine Hutchison

Sabine Hutchison, CEO, Seuss+, and Operating Board President, EMEA, The Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association, discusses the legislation, challenges and hopes for closing the pay gap in life sciences


On 15 December, EU negotiators reached an agreement between the European Parliament and EU Member States on a directive to make salaries more transparent in an effort to reduce the gender pay gap across the EU.


If the directive comes into force, employers with more than 100 employees will be required to report the gender pay gap in their companies. If the gap is more than 5% – without justification – employers will also have to carry out a pay review with employee representatives and take corrective action.


In addition, Member States will have to introduce sanctions if the principle of equal pay is not respected, and workers will be entitled to compensation if companies fail to comply with equal pay obligations. The proposal could improve pay equality for women, which is needed in the life sciences sector to a degree.


Recognise the gap


Over the past five years, the Healthcare Business Women’s Association has worked diligently with our data partner to produce a valuable ‘European Gender Pay Gap Report’. This report shows that the gender pay gap in the European life sciences industry has worsened over the last two years.


One day, we will not need to discuss the gender pay gap

We see that there are many factors to consider when addressing the gender pay gap, such as parental leave, motherhood penalty vs fatherhood premium, part-time work, lower pensions and fewer women in senior positions, to name but a few.


Across Europe in particular, there remains a significant gender pay gap. Based on Aon’s Radford’s 2022 Full Census Global Compensation Database, the overall median pay gap in the life sciences industry is 14.4% in favour of men. In fact, the gender pay gap at the management level has increased by 4.5% in the last two years.


Inaction and intent


We do not believe that people or organisations consciously intend to widen the gender pay gap, but inaction also moves the needle in the wrong direction. Ask yourself: is your organisation hiring more women into entry-level roles while promoting more men into senior roles? When was the last time you checked your job descriptions for biased language? Do you ask job applicants what they currently earn? Do you conduct pay equity audits? Have you reviewed your bonus payments? These are just some of the ways an organisation can take action. Remember, there is a big difference between intent and action.


While the data in the 2022 report is frustrating and disappointing for those of us who have been driving change for so long, I encourage you to continue to persevere and take action to ensure a different future. Just look at history, Emmeline Pankhurst persisted for 15 years until the Representation of the People Act 1918 was passed and women over 30 were given the vote, and it took another 10 years until all women were given the vote at 21. One day we will no longer need to discuss the gender pay gap, and I hope to celebrate that day with you all.


This feature appears in GOLD 27 – read the full issue here.

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