EY uses diversity and inclusion strategy to address gender pay disparity

EY

Professional services organisation EY is tackling its gender pay gap disparity using a range of policies and programmes within its diversity and inclusion strategy, aimed at improving gender balance across the business.

The firm, which has 15,000 employees in the UK and Ireland, reported a 19.7% mean gender pay gap for fixed hourly pay as at April 2017, published as part of its Pay gap report 2017 in October 2017. EY has attributed its gender pay gap to having fewer female employees in senior positions, however, it acknowledges that this is a simplified view of the gender balance conundrum. Maggie Stilwell, managing partner for talent, UK and Ireland at EY, says: “It’s quite a complicated set of interrelated factors, so organisationally, we’re just trying to tick off as many of them as we can.”

EY is currently working towards a target of having 30% of its partner admissions being female. This target, which was set five years ago, is measured on a three-yearly basis with the current female partner admission rate recorded at 28%. To help reach its target, EY implemented a Career Watch sponsorship programme in 2013 to help female employees at manager level progress into senior management roles within two years. The programme provides each participant with an internal sponsor to support career progression. “Making sure that [there are] enough female role models at partner level is really important to us,” Stilwell adds. “The more we can achieve that target, the more we will start to move the pay gap. The more women we get in partnership, the better.”

Over the last five years, EY has increased its proportion of female partners from 15% to 20%.

EY is also exploring gender balance within its graduate hires and seeks to employ a 50:50 ratio of male and female students into its entry-level positions, with the hope that these employees will progress within the organisation to reach partner roles. Currently, 42% of the organisation’s graduate hires are female. “We’re in the process of unpacking our student process and looking at how we can be more attractive and make sure that our selection processes [are] working for our female students as well as it is for our male students,” Stilwell explains.

However, this measure will impact EY’s gender pay gap figures in the short-term because it is effectively hiring more women into its lower pay levels, adds Stilwell.

EY also offers flexible-working and shared parental leave policies to encourage working fathers to play a more active role in childcare. The firm’s shared parental leave policy, which provides male employees with six weeks of leave at full pay and 33 weeks of leave at half pay, has proved popular with expectant dads. Since its implementation three years ago, male employees have taken a total of 3,170 days of shared parental leave to date. In addition, 76 male employees took shared parental leave in 2017, compared to 12 male employees in 2015. The average length of shared parental leave for men at EY is 42 days.

“We felt it was really important to have a great shared parental leave policy so that we could encourage our dads early on to experience being at home and taking more of a role with their children, so that parenting doesn’t just become something that we need to sort out for our women because that’s not a good way of looking at it,” says Stilwell.

Linked to this, EY believes that men should be the equal focus of gender pay gap disparity measures and that more men should take on secretarial or front-of-house roles. “We should have male and female faces in all the roles that we offer at every level,” adds Stillwell. “It’s not all about getting women into the more senior roles.”

To further embrace a more inclusive workplace, EY has introduced mandatory training for partners, directors and managers, which focuses on how to lead teams inclusively. The training programme for partners and directors was launched four years ago, however, the training is now being cascaded to managers. “[It is] thinking about how we can manage people who are different to us and understand and walk in their shoes more, and try [to] change the organisation so that it works better for everyone, not just white males,” says Stilwell.

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In order to better promote this range of initiatives, EY is currently exploring how technology can be used to increase accessibility to the schemes, rather than relying solely on its existing internal website.

EY’s initiatives in this area form part of its overall diversity and inclusion strategy. “It’s a package of things, there’s no silver bullet here,” Stilwell says. “The gender pay gap is a really good thing for shining a light on this issue. I think it will drive awareness and change. We just want to make our organisation more diverse and inclusive.”