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Why PwC decided to report its BAME pay gap

The progress being made on gender diversity has made the firm think about broader areas of difference

It's a well-known fact that many UK businesses lack diversity at their most senior levels. Lots of conversations have been had about why there aren’t enough women in leadership roles and the barriers they face when trying to climb the corporate ladder.

But if you look for the same conversations and articles about ethnic diversity they are much harder to find. Why is that? If you think about the top levels of UK businesses it’s not hard to see that many also have an ethnicity imbalance. The scale of the problem was highlighted by the Parker Review, which found that only 8% of FTSE directors are not white.

The focus and momentum on gender issues in the workplace has been useful in creating change. For example, the government’s requirement for companies with more than 250 employees to measure and report their gender pay gaps has been helpful in driving the debate forward, understanding what the challenges are and holding businesses to account to make changes.

We’ve been reporting our gender pay gap for four years now and it has allowed us to understand some of the barriers that women face when trying to progress. We have taken action based on our data and have managed to lower our pay gap to 13.7% from 15.2% a year ago.

The progress being made on gender diversity has made us think about broader areas of difference and what we can do as a large organisation to give them the same airtime and focus. That’s why this year in our digital annual report we decided to report our black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) pay gap for the first time.

We are one of the first private organisations to take this step and hope it will prompt others to consider their own ethnicity position and kick off more conversations about the barriers that BAME people face in the workplace. We’ll only be able to create truly diverse and inclusive organisations if we address all forms of difference.

Putting pay data into the public domain can feel uncomfortable and there is always a tendency for people to misinterpret the numbers and equate a pay gap with organisations not paying people equally. But that is not a good enough reason not to do it.

By looking at their pay data through the lens of ethnicity, organisations can truly understand what their challenges are. We are confident that we pay our BAME and non-BAME people the same for doing equivalent jobs, and that our pay gap is entirely driven by having an ethnicity imbalance at the top levels of our business.

This distinction between equal pay and pay gaps is important. Because pay reporting will only drive the right results if we focus on the right problem. For us that means working hard to retain our more junior BAME staff and improve their rates of progression to senior management. It also means having more role models at the top levels of our business from all ethnic backgrounds and making sure that all of our people have the opportunities to work on our most stretching client projects.

As we’ve seen with gender pay reporting, publishing pay data adds a level of public accountability that starts conversations and drives change. We’re hoping that BAME pay reporting can do the same for ethnicity.

Laura Hinton is head of people at PwC