Gender pay gaps: the end of a very protracted beginning

Chris Game

As Lady Bracknell would certainly not have observed: to overlook the UK’s first serious exercise in gender pay gap reporting may be regarded as a misfortune; to overlook additionally the near coincidence of America’s Equal Pay Day would look like literal carelessness. So we won’t.

Butchering another clichéd quotation, last week’s historic publication by nearly 10,000 companies and public sector organisations of broadly comparable gender pay gap data could be loosely likened to Churchill’s characterisation of the war-turning battle of El Alamein in November 1942: “not the end; not even the beginning of the end, but perhaps the end of the beginning.”

In this instance, an even more protracted beginning. And indeed, there is a figure of Churchillian admirability in the equal pay battle too – a remarkable woman politician, though certainly not Theresa May, despite her audacious attempts to persuade us otherwise last weekend.

Yes, it was Prime Minister May who did eventually introduce Statutory Instrument No.172 (2017) – the Equality Act (2010) (Gender Pay Gap Information) Regulations – with its key ‘duty to publish’ stipulations: gender pay gaps, proportions of men and women by salary quartile, bonus payments, and, arguably most important of all, to do so annually.

But it was also Home Secretary May, the new Conservative-led Coalition and its business supporters who were responsible for delaying this beginning by the seven years between those two bracketed legislative dates, by doing their utmost in 2010 to dilute the implementation of the genuinely radical Equality Act inherited from the Labour Government and its author and driver, Equalities Minister Harriet Harman.

Positive Action just survived – enabling an employer, faced with two candidates of equal merit, to recruit or promote one from an age, racial or gender group under-represented in the workforce in order to increase its diversity. But not the pivotal gender pay audit – “Theresa May axes Harman’s Law”, as the Telegraph exulted. Instead of employers having to reveal their gender pay gaps, a voluntary approach, we were assured, would be preferable.  And true, some big companies did respond: five, to be precise.

So, by 2015, with the UK’s overall gender pay gap – that is, between the total pay averages of all, not just full-time, workers – still close to 20%, it was clear even to ministers that voluntary wasn’t working. Compulsory annual reporting, gender pay gap league tables, and annual gap-closing targets are no magic wand. But they furnish authoritative and hard-to-deny data, and highlight details, patterns and trends – the virtual absence, for instance, of a gender pay gap for full-time men and women between 22 and 39. They also indicate where further data are needed and enable genuinely informed debate.

Hence, the end of the beginning. Harman had been right, although her Equality Act would have constituted a much bigger, as well as earlier, beginning. For, despite its interminable gestation, this month’s exercise has major limitations.  First, it is confined to organisations with 250 or more employees – a count which, contrary to some reports, should include part-time workers and job-sharers (as whole employees), but, significantly for councils, not agency workers or service companies.

Secondly, there is no definitive database of companies with 250-plus employees. No way of knowing, therefore, who’s not reported, never mind penalising them for non-compliance. The most the Government Equalities Office (GEO) can threaten is that non-compliance runs a “reputational risk”. Scary!  Thirdly, there’s no way, with only 14 pieces of information requested, of checking patently implausible returns – not even overall employee totals by gender.

For illustrative purposes, I’ve made my own small comparison of West Midlands metropolitan councils’ returns – obviously very limited in scale, though slightly more than a straight lift from the GEO website.

Gender Pay Gap table

The 14 items of information required of employers comprised:

1 – 2: Mean gender pay gap – difference between women’s and men’s average hourly wage rates across the whole organisation, a -10% gap meaning women’s hourly wage is 10% lower than men’s and that they earn 90p for every £1 that men earn.

3 – 4: Median pay gap – calculated by ranking all employees from highest paid to lowest paid and taking the hourly wage of the person in the middle, a -10% gap meaning the middle-paid woman’s hourly wage is 10% lower than the middle-paid man’s. Median pay is widely considered the preferable measure of ‘typical pay’, less influenced by workers with either very low or very high pay, and is the measure used here.  Currently it is 18.4% for all workers, 1% higher than the mean pay gap.

The GEO helpfully translate the percentages into more readily graspable cash terms, but I’ve always liked the US concept of Equal Pay Day, marking how far into the next calendar year the average American woman must work to earn what the average man earned the previous year – which for 2017/18 just happened to be the Tuesday of this past week, April 10th, representing a mean pay gap of about 21%.

The UK’s Fawcett Society defines it slightly differently, as the day – November 10th last year – after which women in effect begin to work for free, due to the pay gap. That column’s calculations, therefore, are mine.

5 – 9: Proportions of women in each pay quartile, calculated by dividing all employees into four even groups according to their pay, and indicating women’s representation at different levels of the organisation.

10 – 14: Proportion of men and women receiving bonuses; mean and median gender bonus gaps. Important statistics, but excluded here, since Solihull and Walsall were the only councils paying bonuses.

Hopefully, after that much explanation, the figures speak largely for themselves, at least as a starting point for discussion or further examination. The sector headline results were widely reported, particularly by the Local Government Chronicle, though usually using mean, rather than median, figures.  Two-thirds of councils – 193 of 293, and all but Coventry in the WM metro sample – reported mean pay differences of over 5%, the threshold deemed “significant” by the Equality & Human Rights Commission. In just 18 of the 193 cases was the gap in favour of women, but these did include both Worcester City and neighbouring Wyre Forest councils.

The former, interestingly, is fractionally over the 250-employee threshold, but obviously plenty of smaller districts are below, like Malvern Hills (in which an INLOGOV colleague has more than a passing interest), which shares an all-male senior management team with Wychavon district, but the genders of whose 170 staff it’s not required even to count. Not yet, anyway. But, as Harriet Harman would be entitled to note, this is barely the end of the beginning.

chris gameChris Game is a Visiting Lecturer at INLOGOV interested in the politics of local government; local elections, electoral reform and other electoral behaviour; party politics; political leadership and management; member-officer relations; central-local relations; use of consumer and opinion research in local government; the modernisation agenda and the implementation of executive local government.

This blog was originally posted on the Political Studies Association Insights blog.

The views and content of this blog reflect the views of the author and not the views of INLOGOV or the University of Birmingham.

How can urban transportation improvements in India be accelerated?

Greg Marsden and Louise Reardon

In this blog we introduce a new two-year research project, funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council and the Indian Council of Social Science Research. The project is an interdisciplinary collaboration between Greg Marsden (ITS University of Leeds), Louise Reardon (INLOGOV, Birmingham), Sanjay Gupta (SPA, Delhi), Ashish Verma (IISc, Bangalore) and the World Resources Institute and will examine the urban mobility implications of India’s on-going Smart Cities Mission.

The negative outcomes of India’s current urban transport systems are a cause for concern. The World Health Organisation has identified India as home to 10 of the world’s 20 most polluted cities, while also experiencing 150,000 road traffic deaths per year (some six times higher per head of population than the UK). There are also major social inequities that directly or indirectly arise from the uneven allocation of transport resources in India’s urban areas. To date, the emphasis in Indian cities has been on expanding mobility through new, large transport infrastructure projects. These projects benefit high income people most but do little to address the existing inequities in delivery of transport services where there has been a decline in the overall coverage of public transport and a rise in private motorised transport. Redesigning urban governance, including transport governance, has therefore been identified as a critical element of progress in delivering more inclusive and sustainable cities in India.


Previous research has identified that limited powers, resources and capacity at a local level have contributed to a failure to plan adequately for the exponential growth in vehicular traffic, and to service new formal and informal migrant communities in rapidly growing Indian cities. The need for improvements to transport service quality, innovation and easier access to the financing necessary for such improvements has increased the importance of industry and other private sector actors as key agents of change alongside the state. These processes bring with them new challenges around how best to manage the balance of responsibility and resources between national, regional and local government levels. Moreover, how best to govern through an increasingly complex set of actors and how to effectively steer the competing interests of different stakeholders.

In 2015 the Indian national government sought to address these governance challenges launching the Smart Cities Mission; a competition for funding for 100 cities in India for the period to 2019/20. In the government’s own words, the initiative is ‘bold’, aiming to go beyond what has been achieved before at the local level. The focus of the initiative is on promoting cities that provide core infrastructure, a good quality of life and a clean and sustainable environment, through the application of ‘Smart’ Solutions. Urban mobility is one aspect of the Smart Cities Mission (alongside water supply, electricity supply, sanitation, affordable housing, safety and security and health and education). In relation to transport specifically, Smart Cities aim to promote a variety of transport options including Transit Orientated Development, public transport, last mile para-transport connectivity and ‘walkable localities’. There is certainly a broad range of options from what might be seen as basic essentials to ‘smart’ and the tone set by the branding of the initiative is itself an interesting question.

Whilst the interpretation of what policy mix might achieve these features and at what scale (pan-city, new development, retrofit or redevelopment) is to be decided on by each City, the implementation of the Smart Cities Mission at the City level must be done by an organisational arrangement called a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) created for the purpose. The SPV will ‘plan, appraise, approve, release funds, implement, manage, operate, monitor and evaluate the Smart City development projects’. Within this context then, the Smart Cities Mission provides a major opportunity to understand the aims and processes of governance reform and contribute knowledge on the extent to which these reforms impact transport governance and in turn are capable of achieving a significant improvement in the mobility system to promote more sustainable and inclusive development.

The project will undertake a comparative analysis of four case study sites: Bangalore, Jaipur, Ranchi and Bhubaneshwar, each of which have their own history or previous urban transport governance reform. The project, will trace the impacts of transport governance reforms through to the impacts on the economic prosperity and quality of life of citizens both through changing processes and outcomes. It will also critically develop the multi-level governance framework approach in an Indian context, particularly understanding the evolving role of Special Purpose Vehicles in urban reforms. The project has a strong emphasis on engagement with practitioners and academics from across India and the UK and we would be pleased to hear from anyone who has an interest in these themes and in making a difference to urban transport reform in India.

Interested in what you have read here? We have a two-year post-doctoral position available based at the University of Leeds to conduct the primary research (see here for details). There will also be shorter posts available in Delhi and Bangalore.

See here for further details on related ESRC-ICSSR projects and here for other ESRC projects relating to Urban Transformations.

Greg Marsden

Greg is Professor of Transport Governance at the Institute for Transport Studies at the University of Leeds. He has researched issues surrounding the design and implementation of new policies for over 15 years covering a range of issues. He is the Secretary General of the World Conference on Transport Research Society and the co-Chair of the Special Interest Group on Governance and Decision-Making.

Reardon_Pass Photo 2017

Louise is a lecturer in Governance and Public Policy at the Institute of Local Government Studies, University of Birmingham. As co-chair of the WCTRS Special Interest Group on Governance and Decision-Making Processes she is keen to grow the community of scholars critically engaged in understanding and challenging the status quo of transport policymaking.

Image Source: NOMAD [CC BY 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

The views and content reflected in this blog are those of the authors and do not represent the views of INLOGOV or the University of Birmingham.

Discovering Sparkbrook and Balsall Heath

Alison Gilchrist

I am currently part of an exciting European Research Area network (ERA-net) funded project, ‘Smart Urban Intermediaries’ with Catherine Durose from INLOGOV, Annika Agger (Roskilde University), Oliver Escobar (University of Edinburgh) and Merlijn van Hulst (University of Tilburg). This transnational co-enquiry project is looking at the role and practices of ‘smart urban intermediaries’; individuals who forge connections between and within communities and formal institutions of urban governance to create social innovation.

We have now selected a dozen people we identify as smart urban intermediaries and “committed over time to making a difference in their neighbourhood, campaigns on a local issue, supports people to act together, works for social change or helps to solve local problems”. We will be working with them and other stakeholders to understand how they operate and how their activities effect regeneration and community initiatives in areas of Birmingham, Glasgow, Copenhagen and Amsterdam. Following discussions with our local cooperation partners, Citizens UK and Birmingham Council, we have chosen to focus the research on Balsall Heath and Sparkbrook.

These two areas combine as one political ward on the edge of inner-city Birmingham and are home to around 10,000 residents drawn from all corners of the world. They have been described as a ‘microcosm’ of the city and are renowned for many reasons. We chose them as our anchor neighbourhood because of their reputation as places with a ‘can-do’ attitude, as well as being characterised by both high concentrations of deprivation and ethnic diversity.

Discussions with our two co-operation partners indicated that Sparkbrook and Balsall Heath are vibrant, with lots going on at community level, while facing a number of serious challenges in terms of poor health, low educational attainment, rundown housing and crime, including terrorism-related incidents.

After a couple of hours searching online for information about the various landmarks and organisations operating in the area, I spent a cold and drizzly afternoon on ‘walkabout’ with my camera, strolling round the streets, observing what was going on and dropping in to some of the local projects I had heard about or just happened to pass.

I also attended the Balsall Heath ‘dynamic youth’ awards evening, which was hugely inspiring for its sense of community pride and I got to meet a few of the local characters who had been mentioned to us as potential ‘intermediaries’ as well as introducing myself to some new community entrepreneurs.

My main impression from these two encounters was of the friendliness of the people I met in those few hours. Nearly everyone I spoke to was positive and helpful and I collected lots of leaflets, photographs and contact details along the way. Many of these have formed the foundation for our first round of fieldwork, both in terms of arranging interviews but also providing points of reference in the conversations.

Our team completed 20 formal introductory interviews to choose the dozen individuals who we will be working with over the next year as our ‘smart urban intermediaries’. We feel we have a pretty good gender balance in the sample, and people from a range of ethnic backgrounds as well as practitioners, professionals and activists occupying different roles in the community.

In our initial reflections on these interviews, we have been struck by the passion people feel for the area – their sense of commitment, pride and rooted-ness, often coming from families who have lived in the area for many years or simply because they love the variety of cultures and community connections that are evident in the shops, the inter-faith activities, the streetscapes and languages heard all around. But no-one is under-estimating the severe problems facing the residents or the agencies that serve them. Some of these are long-standing but have been exacerbated by cuts in public services, lack of sustainable funding for core costs, growing inequalities and loss of social cohesion.

Many of the interviews revealed similar worries about the future as well as tensions between some of the organisations. We are currently underway in setting up the first Living Lab to take place on March 19th and have been pleased at the level of enthusiasm for this opportunity for people to come together to share their experiences, find common interests and to learn together about the practices and conditions that support smart ‘connecting’ for social change and innovation.

Alison GilcristAlison Gilchrist is a post-doctoral research fellow at INLOGOV. Alison has substantial experience of working with communities as a community development worker. Her doctoral research investigated the practices of networking and she has a particular interest in strategies for tackling conflict, discrimination and inequalities. You can read more about the project here.


All articles posted on this blog give the views of the author(s) and not of INLOGOV or the University of Birmingham.

Northamptonshire Incompetence or Just the First Domino?

Steve Winterflood

Yesterday, a report ordered by Local Government Secretary Sajid Javid, recommended that Northamptonshire County Council ‘should be scrapped’. But is Northamptonshire’s parlous state due to its own incompetence or is it just the portent of things to come for the future of local government?

Since 2010 local government has been consistent in saying that it has taken a disproportionate reduction in financial support from central government. The Barnet Graph of Doom made it clear that increased demand from adult social services and decreases in central government funding for local government will inevitably lead to disaster unless the issue is addressed, and funding is restored.

The financial collapse of a county council in England is unprecedented. That is the big story. Northamptonshire has historically levied a very low precept and because of the continuation of rate capping it has only limited opportunities to increase its own income. It may have been slow to react to the age of austerity. It may have missed opportunities to reduce costs and increase locally sourced income, but the origin of this disaster is as much in Westminster as it is in Northampton.

Local government has made a valiant attempt to maintain public services in the face of the most stringent cuts the sector has ever experienced. Northamptonshire is not the scandal, it is the disproportionate attack by central government on local government funding that needs to be examined, questioned and ultimately reversed before other democratically elected public bodies fail because of lack of finance and too much central government dictate.

The attack by central government on Northampton might have been more palatable if that part of the governance of England had received the same level of cuts and a similar reduction in staffing but that is not the case.

Who will defend Northamptonshire?

stev winterflood

Steve Winterflood is a PhD student at INLOGOV, researching measures of local government authority. Steve worked for many years in local government and is former Chief Executive of South Staffordshire Council.  




All articles posted on this blog give the views of the author(s) and not of INLOGOV or the University of Birmingham.

Governance of the Smart Mobility Transition – A Window of Opportunity

Louise Reardon and Greg Marsden

smart mobility book coverRapid changes are underway in mobility systems worldwide, including the introduction of shared mobility solutions, Mobility as a Service and the testing of automated vehicles. These changes are driven by the development and application of ‘smart’ technologies such as smart phone platforms and real-time data sensors embedded in infrastructure. Transitions to these technologies present significant opportunities for countries, cities and rural areas alike, offering the tempting prospect of economic benefit whilst resolving today’s safety, congestion, and pollution problems.

Yet while there is a wealth of research considering how these new technologies may impact on travel behaviour, improve safety and help the environment, there is a dearth of research exploring the key governance questions that the transition to these technologies pose in their disruption of the status quo, and changes to governance that may be required for the achievement of positive social outcomes.

Our new edited collection, published this week, aims to step into this void and in doing so presents an agenda for future research and policy action. The book brings together a collection of internationally recognised scholars, drawing on case studies from around the world, to critically reflect on three primary governance considerations:

  • The changing role of the state both during and post-transition:

It is clear that smart mobility is bringing a new set of actors to the transport arena. These actors include global technology companies like Google and Apple; (transport) service aggregators such as Uber and Lyft; and firms specialising in artificial intelligence, automation and robotics who are working with incumbent providers to change the nature of existing goods and services (for example, BMWs partnership with Mobileye). This expanded and increasingly complicated multi-level network of actors has the potential to change the nature of the state’s role as a provider of services, but also challenges its existing relationships and position in transport governance networks more broadly.

  • The voices shaping the smart mobility discourse:

There inevitably exist asymmetries of power within governance networks; not all members are equally reliant on the resources of others to achieve their goals, and therefore not all voices receive equal attention. The question of who gets to participate is therefore critical to understanding how agendas surrounding smart mobility, its implementation, and outcomes will emerge.

  • The implications for the state’s capacity to steer networks and outcomes as a result of these transitions:

Transitions have the potential to challenge or change forms of state capacity; the ability of the state to exercise its power within a network of actors in order to ‘set the rules of the game’ and steer policies towards chosen outcomes. For example, the smart mobility transition has developed during a period of significant fiscal re-adjustment following the global financial crisis of 2008. As Gardner (2017, 158) notes, such pressures have led to ‘market-driven approaches to co-ordination…growing in importance in comparison to state-driven models’. It is within this context then that we have to understand where within government there is the capacity to steer the mobility transition and what factors contribute to building rather than eroding that capacity.

On focusing on these three areas, the book concludes that governance is, and will, play a critical role in shaping the outcomes of smart mobility transitions, and argues that at present there exists a critical window of opportunity for researchers and practitioners to shape what these governance mechanisms should look like, and that this opportunity must be seized upon before it is too late.

Governance of the Smart Mobility Transition is edited by Greg Marsden and Louise Reardon and was published by Emerald this week. To get a 30% discount on purchase, use the code: EMERALD30 

Reardon_Pass Photo 2017Louise Reardon is a lecturer at the Institute of Local Government Studies, University of Birmingham. Louise’s research focuses on a range of governance and public policy issues and questions; including dynamics of agenda setting, policy change, policy implementation, multi-level governance, depoliticization, and on the politics and policy of wellbeing. As co-chair of the WCTRS Special Interest Group on Governance and Decision-Making Processes, she is keen to grow the community of scholars critically engaged in understanding and challenging the status quo of transport policymaking.

Greg MarsdenGreg Marsden is Professor of Transport Governance at the Institute for Transport Studies at the University of Leeds. He has researched issues surrounding the design and implementation of new policies for over 15 years covering a range of issues. He is the Secretary General of the World Conference on Transport Research Society and the co-Chair of the Special Interest Group on Governance and Decision-Making. He has served as an advisor to the House of Commons Transport Select Committee and regularly advises national and international governments.

The Power of Community Organising: Reflecting on Citizens UK: Birmingham’s Commonwealth Games Assembly

Catherine Durose

Diverse, joyful, inspiring and hopeful are not words that I would usually associate with meetings, but they are wholly appropriate to describe my experience of being involved as Co-Chair of Citizens UK: Birmingham’s Commonwealth Games Assembly.

A chapter of a national organisation, Citizens UK: Birmingham is a diverse civil society alliance bringing together over 25 member institutions, including education, community, trade union and faith-based organisations from across the city-region. They are committed to using community organising to generate collective power for social change and convene a series of local campaigns on issues of social justice. In Birmingham’s Town Hall on 7 March 2018, Citizens UK brought together nearly a thousand people from communities across the city to celebrate that Birmingham is now confirmed as the host of the Commonwealth Games in 2022.

Amidst the celebration, Citizens UK sought pledges from the head of the organising committee on a set of citizen’s guarantees to ensure community benefit from the Games. These guarantees focus attention on the once in a lifetime opportunity offered by the Games for a catalyst and a legacy of social change for the city. Citizens UK called for a working relationship to deliver a living wage games with a legacy of opportunity for children and young people from across all our communities in Birmingham, ranging from paid work experience to access to sports facilities to permanently affordable social housing.

The Assembly was a celebratory occasion, full of music, performance and laughter. But it was also an important political event. Assemblies are a form of political theatre, highly choreographed and intending to take the audience on a journey. The songs sung by school choirs, performances from diasporic community groups and the powerful testimony from often least represented voices in our society speaking truth to power about their own lives are all deeply emotional experiences and deliberately so. It is easy to be cynical about politics and democracy, particularly in the current climate, but this event offered an important starting point for a different kind of political conversation.

Assemblies fulfil a series of important political functions. Assemblies are designed to be about political accountability, a public holding to account of those with formal decision-making power, a forging of a relationship beyond the ballot box between voters and those they elected. Assemblies demonstrate a different kind of political power, a power generated by organising and mobilising. Assemblies provide a political education, a new kind of political training ground, inspiring active citizens and forging the political leaders of tomorrow. Assemblies are also about political efficacy, building the hope and belief that not only is social change possible, but showing people that they have an active role to play in achieving it. As a fellow Leader noted at the Assembly; whilst people often think that action comes from hope, it’s the other way round, hope comes from action.

I was at the Assembly as part Citizens UK: Birmingham’s Leadership Group and a member of the Citizens UK National Council, representing the University of Birmingham’s College of Social Sciences, which have been a Principal Partner in this alliance since March 2015. Why would a university be involved in community organising? The answer is that there is a need for universities to be actively engaged with their local communities. We have a role and moreover a responsibility to work locally as well as globally to improve the conditions and opportunities for our local communities.

Community organising also recognises self-interest, being part of this civil society alliance helps us to build capacity for civic engagement in our research, teaching and impact. I was joined on Wednesday by over sixty colleagues and students from the University of Birmingham, ranging from final year students working with Citizens UK on placement as part of their Professional Development module to members of a recent Senior Leader’s cohort who have worked with Citizens UK on a project developing new modes of research access and engagement, to a Professor using community organising to pioneer inclusive business support for minority ethnic entrepreneurs. Civic engagement of this kind is crucial to what we are as a College.

To get involved:

On 6 June, we will be holding the second in our annual CoSS Citizens UK lecture series where Professor Guy Standing (SOAS) will be talking on the subject of universal basic income. The lecture will be followed the next day by a Civic Academy, where civil society leaders will be discussing how to take action on this issue in the city. As a precursor we are screening the film, ‘Free Lunch Society’ on Wednesday 25 April on the University of Birmingham’s campus. If you want to register for any of these events, please email me at

Catherine Durose 2017Dr Catherine Durose is a Reader in Policy Sciences at INLOGOV. She undertakes research, teaching and impact work on urban governance and public services, with particular interests in participation, intermediation and co-production. She is part of Citizens UK: Birmingham’s Leadership Group and a member of Citizens UK National Council.