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Maxus CEO Baughan leads calls for equal gender pay

Should we be concerned about the so-called ‘gender pay gap’ and the UK government’s new plans to publish league tables of such among UK companies employing over 250 people?

According to HMG, the GPG in the UK currently stands at 20 per cent, which sounds pretty shocking, although if you took a line from, say, 1945 to the present you’d see it closing pretty rapidly.

Advertising, marketing and media are, I suspect, not much different to other businesses. With the growth of digital everything, employees in such companies are more likely to be like employees in other businesses than they were in the highly male-centric ‘Mad Men days’ (male-centric apart from the heroic efforts of Peggy and Joan). The GPG will surely disappear as the girls currently outperforming the boys at school make their way into business. But there are still very few female CEOs of big creative agencies, as opposed to managing directors and similar. Maybe the female MDs get the boring jobs, who knows?

Anyway quite a few agencies – and lots of marketing and media companies – will be ‘named and shamed’ (as some would have it) in the tables when they’re published.

Here’s an interesting view on the topic from Nick Baughan (below), CEO of WPP-owned media agency Maxus in the UK. Media agencies seem better at promoting women, Baughan’s boss is former UK CEO and now global CEO Lindsay Pattison.

Baughan says: “Any move that changes the secrecy over salaries should be embraced wholeheartedly by progressive businesses. It’s time that pay joined the rest of us in the 21st century.

“Business leaders have an obligation to address the shocking gender pay gap by holding the mirror up to their own organisations. Beyond the obvious ethical imperative to offer pay equality and transparency, there are clear business benefits around bottom line results and attracting and retaining talent. Last year I ran the numbers at my business, Maxus – a media agency of just over 250 people – and can happily report that women are paid 0.5 per cent more than men.

“But while salaries are a crucial, visible benchmark of gender parity, a corresponding culture must filter through the business, requiring investment and consultation around areas such as recruitment, staff development and flexible working policies. In the media and advertising industry, the big gap still happens around child-bearing age; government and business together must make it easier for parents to share child-rearing responsibilities.”

He’s right about the ‘child-bearing age’ issue although you can see how that’s a problem for some creative agencies, who seem to survive only by keeping their employees chained to the coal face 24/7. When a panic pitch is on, what do you say to a woman whose child is ill? There might not be a partner handily in situ.

We’ll no doubt be hearing a lot more about this. Some big player CEOs will be feeling rather nervous.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.
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