Recruitment’s role in the gender pay gap discussion

Gender Pay Gap

Recruitment has thankfully come a long way since the days of being proudly run with the ‘boys’ club’ attitude, which was rife in the 80s and 90s. There has been a shift in mentality, and women are now certainly more than welcome in the sector. However, like many industries, there is still gender inequality present which is proven by a stark gender pay gap. Recruitment strategists are often seen as the bridge between companies and diversity growth; however, before we attempt to help other industries fix their equality issues, we must take a look at ourselves and address our own problems.

What is the gender pay gap? 

On April 6th 2017, it became mandatory for businesses with over 250 employees to publish their mean and median gender pay gap at the end of each financial year. This year’s result showed that the average gap improved by just 0.1% from the previous year, taking it to 9.6%. This awfully slow pace of movement is perhaps why over 20 years the gap has only reduced by half. Analysis from APSCo found that in 1999, according to ONS, the gender pay gap was a shocking 19%. However, although this figure sounds high compared to today’s standards, at the time it was celebrated as a major improvement, as women’s pay was just 63% of men’s in 1970.

Why is there still a gender pay gap in recruitment?

It’s no secret that recruitment is a highly competitive and fierce environment. And although these adjectives aren’t exclusive to describing men, according to Textio, an augmented writing platform, these ‘masculine’ terms have been proven to deter more female applicants when included in job adverts. To ensure that we see more women emerge in positions of authority, we need to nurture a welcoming atmosphere from the get-go. Previous research from Women in Recruitment and Westminster Business School also revealed that 66% of females working in recruitment believe that family and caring responsibilities can negatively impact on womens’ promotion and career prospects, with other perceived contributing factors including a lack of confidence (40%) and an ‘old boy’ network-style atmosphere (41%).

What the recruitment industry must do

Recruitment leaders are in a unique position to lead by example, to level the playing field. It’s our responsibility to establish the profession as a ‘beacon of excellence’ for gender equality, so we are able to disseminate best practice throughout the wider workforce. To establish the sector as a brand of excellence in diversity and inclusion practices, we need to shout about the power of female leadership and be boastful about the excellent work they do. Increasing the presence of high-skilled women at senior level will encourage more females also to reach their full potential, and essentially close the gender pay gap.

Practical steps to take

Recruitment agencies must take practical steps to increase equality. This involves ensuring effective support is available and being proactive in succession planning when women are on career breaks. There should be a strategic approach in place to guarantee that there is fair representation at all levels.


A number of leading companies now have a returnship scheme. These are fantastic initiatives that truly send the right message and offer women a practical way back into the industry following a career break. It’s important to offer guidance, support and management during this crucial time and provide women with a system which allows them to get back on their feet quickly. 


As females often bear the brunt of care work both with children and ageing parents, a flexible schedule may be the difference in what enables someone to work effectively or not at all. Allowing people to work from home or out of office hours may allow them to create the work-life balance they need. This is a practical measure that shows that you care and value your employees, and inevitably this will create a better work environment.

Company culture

To create true diversity, you need to develop a company culture that people want to be part of, and where people want to stay. Remove any gender bias and nurture values rich in diversity and inclusion. Create an environment and team where everyone is encouraged to reach their full potential. We must teach women to have more confidence in their own abilities and to step up and take control of their own career development, but to do this, sometimes you need a strong team behind you for support. 

Regardless of the wide discourse in business and media about the need for diversity, change won’t come unless action is taken. It’s vital that recruiters become champions of inclusion so that we can honestly and confidently inform, advise and assist organisations in understanding the business opportunities associated with gender equality, to create a better society for all.  

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