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Women could boost economy by £239m

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JERSEY’S economy could be boosted by hundreds of millions of pounds if more women were encouraged into work and the Island’s gender pay gap was tackled, a new report has found.

PwC Chief Strategy officer Leyla Yildirim and PwC UK's Diversity and Inclusion Consulting Leader, Jon Terry

According to the Channel Islands Women in Work Index 2019 produced by PwC, if Jersey could increase its female employment rate by 8% to match that of Sweden then GDP could be increased by 6% – the equivalent of £239 million.

Closing the Island’s 21% gender pay gap – the average difference in earnings between men and women – would bring a further £212-million boost to the economy.

And to kick-start such action, the report says that the States should consider introducing mandatory gender pay-gap reporting for companies with more than 50 employees. In the UK, businesses with more than 250 staff are currently required to file reports, and moves are under way to reduce that threshold to 50 employees.

The States itself should lead by example by publishing its own public sector pay gap data and taking steps to address it, the report adds.

‘This would shine a light on companies with significant gaps and act as an incentive to address the issue, while also highlighting the organisations that are making strong progress, so others can learn from best practice,’ the report says.

‘On its own, gender pay-gap reporting is not a silver bullet, but alongside a broader focus on gender equality across multiple areas it can be highly effective as a lever for change.’

Targets should also be considered for female representation on boards, the report adds.

There would be other benefits to increasing female employment, according to the report, including bringing in fresh ideas, encouraging other under-represented groups into the workplace and protecting’s Jersey’s international reputation, as customers are increasingly looking at gender diversity when making decisions about where they will do business.

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Guernsey would also benefit from hundreds of millions of pounds if it took action on the same issues.

‘Getting this wrong could have significant reputational risk issues for a brand, not to mention the impact on attracting customers, investors and talent,’ the report says. ‘As international finance centres, it needs to be obvious that Jersey and Guernsey are modern, forward-thinking and progressive places in which to do business.’

Currently, Jersey has a full-time female-equivalent employment rate of 61% while in Sweden, which is used as a benchmark because it consistently has one of the highest ratings among major economies, it is 69%.

The 21% gender pay gap, meanwhile, is put down to the high numbers of women in low-paid and part-time positions and lack of women in the best paid and most senior roles.

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The report, which measures female participation in OECD economies and how pay compares with men, has now made a number of recommendations of how the States, businesses, educators and everyday Islanders could work to bridge that gap.

According to the report, Jersey has an ‘under-utilised pool of female talent’ and skills shortages in many sectors.

It adds: ‘More women participating in work, more women leading local businesses, more women creating new businesses, and closing the gender pay gap would give a significant boost to our economies and further build our reputation globally as a great place to do business.

‘Gender equality is now on the government and business agenda in the Channel Islands, yet progress has been slow. The Women in Work Index ratings for Jersey and Guernsey are below the UK as a whole and considerably behind Luxembourg (ranked sixth), a major competitor for asset wealth management business and one of the fastest-rising economies in the index. At 21%, the gender pay gap is especially wide within the Channel Islands, reflecting the lack of representation of women within the most senior and highest-paid posts. In Luxembourg, it is only 5.5% – having reduced significantly since 2000, when the first Women in Work Index ranked Luxembourg in 23rd place.’

Action required, according to the report

Gender equality should be built into policy-making and business fundamentals including objectives, performance measurement and incentives, the report says.

Educators: can take action by tackling conscious and unconscious bias in learning which limit girls’ career choices, work with businesses to highlight opportunities for women, offer tasters of career options girls may not have considered before and provide role models for students to aspire to. More priority should also be given to upskilling people already of working age.

The States: As well as introducing mandatory gender pay-gap reporting, the States could promote examples of family-friendly working, begin a conversation about female quotas and set targets in the short-term, consider incentives and tax breaks for companies and employees to encourage women into work and improve family support, such as through proposals for improved parental leave.

Businesses: Should treat gender equality like any other strategic priority and set targets, track progress and build the results into performance objectives and incentives. They should work to destigmatise flexible working for men and women, provide role models and guidance, be transparent, and make diversity part of their brand.

Islanders: Should consider ways to reboot their career, share data about the issues and examples of good practice on social media, be role models for other women, seek out mentors and sponsors and engage men as allies and advocates.

Lucy Stephenson

By Lucy Stephenson
author

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