‘No pay gap complacency’

All organisations in the arts and heritage sector report a lower gender pay gap than the national average, but there is still plenty of work to be done. Caroline Parry reports
Caroline Parry
Gender pay gap data has been met with caution across the heritage sector despite all eligible organisations reporting mean pay gaps lower than the national average.

The data, which companies and organisations employing at least 250 staff were required to file, has once again highlighted that while the museum and gallery sector workforce is predominantly female, men dominate the senior roles and are paid more.

The British Museum was one of just 8% of reporting organisations with no mean gap at all. Its median hourly rate for women was also 4% higher than for its male staff.

The National Maritime Museum also pays its female staff more, with a median hourly rate 0.5% higher than for male employees. Tate reported a 0.2% mean pay gap in favour of women and a median hourly rate 2.4% higher for women.

Those figures, however, do not include Tate Enterprises, which covers its retail, catering, finance and operations, and had to report separately. The figures show women’s mean hourly rate is 1.8% lower than men’s, while women’s median hourly rate is 3% lower.

Andy Bodle, speaking in his capacity as the chair of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport HR Group, says: “The national average [for the gender pay gap] has been reported as 18.4%. Perhaps unsurprisingly, everyone in the museum sector appears to be below this average, presumably because of the high incidence of women employed.”

But Bodle, who is the director of operations and human resources at Royal Museums Greenwich, warns that the sector should not be complacent. “While figures, on the face of it, are encouraging, and the presence of more women in the sector than men should surely have a bearing as careers progress, it has not happened yet,” he says. “So some form of leadership development from within to allow greater parity at the top is desirable.”

Masking wider issues

However, Prospect, a union that has members in the sector, has warned that gender pay gap data is actually masking wider pay inequality issues in museums and heritage.

Alan Leighton, Prospect’s national secretary, highlights data from Imperial War Museums (IWM) that show its female staff’s mean hourly rate is 2% lower than for its male employees, while the median hourly rate is 1.2% lower.

The union says it has concerns about the extent to which women are being paid less than men in the same or lower grades. It sent IWM a formal equality questionnaire on behalf of nine members at the end of last month, with a response due within 28 days.

Responding to the claims, IWM director-general Diane Lees says: “We recognise the concerns raised by our trade unions and are in ongoing discussions with them to address these issues.

“While IWM’s gender pay gap is smaller than other organisations’, we recognise there is still more to be done to close that gap. We are carefully looking at ways in which we can eliminate the gender pay gap at IWM, which includes a review of our recruiting practices and a review of a number of legacy pay structures.”

Government help

While Leighton acknowledges that lack of funding causes significant issues when it comes to pay progression in the sector, he believes that the government needs to invest more money in reducing the pay gap in a bid to encourage employers to follow suit.

“The only way to really address pay issues is to carry out a pay equality audit,” he says. “That is a key action point for museums and a real test of how serious they are.”

A spokesperson for Arts Council England, which itself reported data showing a pay gap favouring men, says: “The data that is emerging from the largest museums and galleries is too small a sample to be read as representative of the museum sector as a whole, and any issues it may be facing in relation to the gender pay gap.”

Bodle thinks the data is unreliable. “These figures are subject to quite significant swings due to fairly minor changes, and the key consideration is probably movement over time,” he says. “In addition, the resolution of gender pay gaps is probably more societal than employer led, but it can only be a good thing that the debate has now started.

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