The CIPD recently reported that 52% of companies who filed their 2nd year gender pay data indicated that the pay gap has increased in favour of men, compared with 40% who have seen an increase in favour of women and the 8% who saw no change. Within housing the gender pay gap is circa 8% in favour of men, however very few organisations have filed for 2018/19 and it is too early to see if this has changed significantly, but at EMA we suspect not.

We believe that the narrative in the gender pay report can impact on how people perceive gender pay data – and we know the majority of women now take an organisation’s pay gap into consideration before applying for a job, according to research from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

The team at EMA have spoken to several Housing Associations who have indicated that reducing their gender pay gap is a top priority. However, an analysis of senior appointments within housing in January/February 2019 indicated that 57% were men. Research from the Government Equalities Office (GEO) indicated that 69% of employers now view closing the gender pay gap as a “high or medium” and are having discussions at board level on how to close the gap.

So, can succession planning play a significant role to play in closing the gender pay gap?

Housing organisations are examining how any gaps can be reduced, but perhaps the answer is to develop a succession planning strategy. Very few housing associations have developed strategies, but within the private sector this is seen as the norm. Succession planning provides the opportunity for organisations to identify staff who, with support, can advance to senior positions. Women who may have not applied for senior posts, through this mechanism will be given the support and importantly the confidence if required to apply for senior posts.

Organisations can start by using succession planning to boost gender diversity in their top jobs. This begins by identifying the best female leaders, providing them with a clearer pathway to the top of the organisation and equipping them with the skills and knowledge to pave the way. EMA can confirm there is enthusiasm from employers to ensure women are on the list for leadership roles including Non-Executive Directors (NEDs). Still, it is common practice to begin searching only after an executive is leaving.

HR has a role to establish a skills-based framework of knowledge and expertise required to fill executive and NED posts. Succession training should then be geared around providing the tools required to excel within this framework. Additionally, there is a need to consider enabling strategies for women such as flexible working policies, support networks, and work from home policies. While this may be seen as a ‘disruption’ to the traditional working model, it will give a more diverse range of applicants the possibility to move up through the ranks.

When conducted correctly, succession planning should increase the availability of experienced and capable women who are qualified to take up a senior role and address the gender pay gap.

Ian Robertson, Executive Director, EMA