Steps practices can take to close the Gender Pay Gap
The RIBA is this week encouraging all practices to sign a pledge to put in place actions to close the Gender Pay Gap across the profession.
The Gender Pay Gap is the difference between the amount that women, on average, are paid for each hour worked as compared to men. This should not be confused with equal pay requirements, which stipulate that people doing ‘like work’ must receive equal pay.
The RIBA’s pledge – #CloseTheGap – has been developed with the 12 large practices that have reported their Gender Pay Gaps for the last two years (a government requirement of all employers with more than 250 staff).
The pledge is part of the RIBA’s new guidance on how practices can address gender inequality. It is hoped that every practice with more than 100 staff will choose to report their pay gaps by 2020, and those with 50 staff by 2025.
Allies and Morrison recently published its Gender Pay Gap figures. The practice is one of only three with a median average Gender Pay Gap in single figures: 7%. Its mean average of 12.9% is an improvement, down from 15.8% last year.
Jo Bacon, Managing Partner, explains that the practice has made a number of commitments to reducing the gap further. The firm is going to appoint diversity champions to set up ‘community networks’ within the practice, including a women’s network. "This will identify areas in which staff need support and are falling behind in," Bacon reveals.
The practice already has a strong mentoring system. "It has paired up staff who want to go part-time with mentors that have already done so, for example. It also builds links across the practice with those who have experience at the relevant level."
Over the last two years, Allies and Morrison has also developed a better structured interview system for recruitment and it strives to always have a balanced shortlist of candidates.
"Everybody brings a portfolio to an interview, so that is a key insight to a cultural and intellectual fit," Bacon says. "But we try to build up a detailed picture of a candidate’s real skills. So that it is about established facts rather than simply exploring their skills in implementing RIBA stages: we want to know about their expertise in BIM, Revitt, and other areas."
Flexibility of working hours is one often cited barrier to career progression by women in practice. "We allow staff to come back three days per week after maternity leave," affirms Bacon, "with a view to building up more time in the office if and when they feel ready." The practice has accommodated several successful job-shares too.
"Architectural work is very much a team-focused exercise. That can be difficult to do remotely: so the studio space needs to be happy and comfortable to work in."
Allies and Morrison has better gender equality in its lower pay quartiles and Bacon recognises that career advancement for women is a clear challenge. "Being in practice and staying in practice are two different things; that has been the problem," Bacon admits. "We have better gender equality in our lower quartiles. But, through incentives such as government reporting, we should eventually see upper quartile improvements."
While it is only the largest practices that are obliged to report their Gender Pay Gap, there are still plenty of measures that smaller and medium sized practices can take to address gender inequality.
At the Glasgow-based Collective Architecture, 18 of the 47 current staff are female, and female architectural assistants currently outnumber men. Architect Fiona Welch explains that, while the practice has not as yet carried out any official Gender Pay Gap monitoring, it actively pays attention to its gender balance across each part of the practice. The only personnel without any female representation are their technologists.
It is true that the practice might perhaps have a Gender Pay Gap, occasioned by the current proportion of female staff in lower pay brackets, concomitant with their experience and role within the firm. However, pay levels are totally transparent and everyone is aware of what their colleagues are paid.
"We have open pay scales," explains Welch. "Anyone joining is put on a pay level based on education and experience." This ensures that the practice is in no danger of contravening equal pay requirements.
Flexible working is, as with Allies & Morrison, a key part of the practice’s culture. It is an option for everyone at Collective and is not just childcare related. "We have a low turnover of staff," Welch observes, "probably because we are flexible. We seem to attract a good balance and retain it."
Thanks to Jo Bacon, Managing Partner, Allies and Morrison; Fiona Welch, Architect, Collective Architecture.
Text by Neal Morris. This is a Professional Feature edited by the RIBA Practice team. Send us your feedback and ideas
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Posted on 4 April 2019.