Unconscious Bias or Organisational Inequality?

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The financial giant Prudential has said it would extend its unconscious bias training from senior managers to all of its employees, after revealing that female staff earned salaries 29.7 per cent lower on average than men, with bonuses 75.6 per cent lower.

The British insurer was the latest in a string of employers in the financial sector to reveal a large gap between what men and women were paid.

Under government rules introduced last year, British companies and public sector bodies with more than 250 employees must publish data on the gender pay gap by April 4. The national median pay gap is 18.4 per cent and the mean is 17.4 per cent. At Prudential the median pay gap is 22.9 per cent.

Like other companies in the industry, Prudential said that its pay gap reflected the fact that it employed more men in senior roles. Tim Rolfe, Head of Human Resources, said: “The solution is not to change pay scales but to take steps to ensure that we attract applicants from all backgrounds, create opportunities for all our employees to progress and challenge systems, processes and mindsets to ensure that they do not disadvantage women.”

Last year 188 high-ranking managers underwent special training to help them to identify and stamp out unconscious bias that may hold back women’s careers. One senior figure at Prudential said that the workshop was “hugely revealing for me personally and I am committed to a change in behaviour”. The training will become a requirement for employees at all levels.

A spokesman said these steps were already paying off and that more than half of the recruits to its graduate trainee schemes were women. For its investment graduate scheme, 75 per cent of the 2018 intake were women, compared with 17 per cent four years ago.

The challenge for all organisations - both big and small - is not only to empower workers from all ethnicities, genders or ages within the workplace but also to ensure that those whose responsibility it is to recruit are not only aware of their own biases, but can effectively remove these during the entire recruitment process.

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