I have been waiting for this day for a while, and have been biting my tongue in the meantime.
At the end of last week Barclays announced their gender pay gap. In 2002 I started working in banking, beginning at RBS, moving to HSBC before ending up at Barclays, from which I was made redundant whilst I was on maternity leave in 2017. So far, so factual.
Today I’m writing about Barclays, because they have published their gender pay gap details, and RBS and HSBC have not yet done so. I would be surprised if the results varied dramatically between the three institutions. I would be delighted to be proven wrong.
Barclays pays women 43.5% less than it pays men. It defends this – no, it tries to defend this – by saying there is a disproportionate number of men in senior roles, and women in junior roles, and they are very quick to say – several times – that people in the same role are paid the same.
Firstly, it is not OK to have significantly more men in senior roles. Women have been out-performing men at university level for decades now, Barclays itself claims to embrace “dynamic working” to allow people to juggle family and work responsibilities – why then, should such a gap exist? Barclays does attempt to address this in their PR-puff-piece to accompany the damning results, which unfortunately comes across as a lot of hand-wringing and absolutely no actual action.
Secondly, bullshit, bullshit, bullshit. I worked in the Investment Banking part of Barclays, where not only was it frowned upon to discuss your salary details, but they would not even publish a pay scale. So if you were working as junior staff, or first-rung-on-the-ladder middle management, you had absolutely no idea whether the salary you had negotiated was low, about right, or hilariously high for the job you were actually doing. HSBC and RBS both published payscales for roles at each level, so a guidance was available for you to benchmark yourself.
Now let’s look at bonuses. These were more-or-less standard in the investment bank. For some reason I never fathomed, if your performance had been deemed even satisfactory that year, a bonus would be expected. Despite getting a “good or better” rating every year I worked there, my bonuses ranged from literally £0 one year to, I think about £5000 one unexpected year. Theoretically, this depended on how well the business had done that year. In actuality, it depended on how much your direct manager and their direct manager liked you and fought your corner. (And potentially how much they thought they might have already screwed you over, and whether they were worried you might take legal action.)
Bonuses are an interesting comparison because bonuses are almost all discretionary, so they really can be compared like-for-like between men and women. Barclays has a 73% gap for bonuses. 73%. They reward their men 73% more than they reward their women.
I did some basic maths. And as my high school maths teacher will unhappily attest, my maths is indeed basic. As I am unable to gauge whether I was being paid very well for my grade, or far too little, I have made the assumption my pay was average for my grade.
For the years I worked there, I earned a salary of approximately £60k per annum. I have averaged my bonuses to £2500 per annum.
Just a quick note – yes, I was paid well, yes, I am fully aware that this is far more than many people get to take home, and yes, I was lucky to be able to have a job which was financially rewarding. But this is not about that – this is solely about the discrepancy between men’s and women’s pay.
Extrapolating the data, and making assumptions that RBS and HSBC paid their staff similarly, my sad lack of a penis has meant that it is likely I have missed out on:
Each year: an additional £26,100 in salary
Each year: an additional £1825 in bonuses
Total annual penis deficit: £27,925
Over the course of my 15-year career in banking, this equates to: £418,875.
That is almost half a million pounds. Half a million pounds over the course of 15 years. It’s astonishing. Yes, of course this data cannot be thoroughly interrogated – I cannot know what the person sitting next to me, opposite me, who’d been there a year longer, who had a different set of qualifications, was paid.
And that’s how they get away with it. They can say that men and women are paid equally, but actually, no two candidates are identical. And I suspect that it just so happens that those whose experience meets the skills required the most neatly happen to be men, and therefore they should be paid more than the person sat next to them, who doesn’t quite have the
penis gravitas required for the role.
I can tell you this, without fear of exaggeration or accusations of falsehood.
I worked in a Learning and Development function. There were approximately 50 women, and three men. Among the lower ranks there were three grades of employees:
- Analyst (degree-level entry position)
- Assistant Vice President (AVP – next career step)
- Vice President (VP – higher middle management)
When I joined the department, there was a range of women at all levels, as you would expect. All three men were middle-management AVPs. When promotion season came around, there were five promotions in the department. Two of them were women, one moving from Analyst to AVP, and one from AVP to VP. The other three were the men, who were promoted rapidly through the ranks to VP. You did not stay a junior man for long, in my experience.
This again ties in with the “excuse” that pay is skewed because at Barclays, there are more men in senior roles. Well, yes, if you keep promoting them, yes, that will happen…
How else do they get away with it? Well, especially in investment banking, if you make a bad impression on one bank, you will likely not work in another. Ever. The unofficial grapevine between banks is incredibly noisy. Everyone knows everyone else. This is why women who bring successful sexual harassment claims tend to be awarded vast sums of money, because the legal system recognises that these women will (unfairly) now have a litigious reputation and will never find work in the industry again. So there is a culture of “don’t kick up a fuss” because people don’t want to be edged out of their current role for being difficult, and then find it impossible to find another role in the industry.
Even though I have no intention of returning to financial services and so have nothing to lose, I still feel a little uneasy typing this.
It should be said, of course, my evidence is annecdata – one person’s journey through a vast organisation, and may not be reflective of the organisation at large.
In some respects, Barclays were great to me. The maternity pay was very generous. My flexible working request was granted, and honoured sensitively whilst I worked there. I was very unwell with my second pregnancy and the sickness policy was very supportive. The HR policies were mostly fantastic. I worked with some truly lovely and talented people – male and female.
But the institutionalised culture – that was different. I could tell you the vast number of times my voice wasn’t heard in a meeting, before being repeated (or “hepeated” as I believe it is now called) by a male colleague, to plaudits. About times I was given feedback on either needing to use my voice more, or to speak less, or to walk the line between assertive and bossy more carefully. About pay rises and promotions promised and not delivered. The woman I met on a training course who told me she had no use for feminism, and how she felt that she was not disadvantaged in her career at Barclays compared with the men.
And this is outside of the context of some truly shocking, unpleasant behaviour of male colleagues from time-to-time, whose behaviour was laughed off (by both male and female managers) as “boys will be boys”.
Boys will be boys. And the boys will walk home with an extra half a million in their pockets. Well done, boys. Well done.