WPP’s gender pay gap in the U.K. increased slightly in 2018, according to a report from the holding company released today.
WPP’s U.K. Gender Pay Gap Report 2018 showed a median pay-gap increase from 14.6 percent last year to 14.9 percent. Last year was the first year that WPP filed the report, following new regulations in the U.K. requiring the release of such information for companies with more than 250 employees. WPP’s mean pay gap for 2018 was 23.7 percent, a decrease from 25.5 percent in 2017.
The Three Percent Conference head of culture innovation Amanda Enayati said that while she “can’t speak to the statistical significance” of WPP’s increase in median pay gap in the U.K., “obviously it’s not ideal.”
“We hear consistently across the board [from members of the Three Percent Pledge For Pay Equity] that pay equity is a heavy lift and it requires ongoing vigilance,” she added. “I know that this is a pain point for people across the board. People think that it’s a destination, but it’s not. It’s a journey, not a destination.”
In its report, WPP wrote that it has “a gender-balanced workforce” of “51 percent men and 49 percent women” in the U.K. across the network. “However, we still have a lot of work to do to create more gender-balanced leadership teams,” the report admits. “We have fewer women at the most senior levels, where pay is highest, which results in a gender pay gap.”
WPP’s upper pay quartile in the U.K. includes 61 percent men and 39 percent women. This discrepancy also contributes to a gender bonus gap, since incentives for upper-level positions are more likely to be tied to performance-based bonuses. Across the network in the U.K., 45.7 percent of men received bonuses in 2018, compared to 43.9 percent of women. This amounted to a median gender bonus gap of 46.5 percent and a mean gender bonus gap of 95.5 percent.
There was, of course, a good deal of disparity in results across individual WPP agencies. While JWT had the widest gender pay gap for the second consecutive year, it managed to decrease its median pay gap from 48.7 percent to 38.3 percent. AKQA decreased its median pay gap from 30.5 percent to 21.6 percent in 2018. Grey’s 31.3 percent median pay gap was significantly higher than the average across WPP agencies. Precise Media Monitoring and Hill & Knowlton, which were the lowest among qualifying WPP agencies in the country in 2017 at 2.1 percent and 3.9 percent, respectively, brought those numbers into the negative for 2018, to -4 and -2.4 percent.
WPP has implemented a number of internal initiatives to address the issue of pay equity, including its Stella senior leadership and networking group for women, a Propeller U.K. program for “training and coaching high-potential women,” its X Factor global mentoring and development program and Walk The Talk, an intensive coaching program for women started at media agency Maxus, which WPP expanded across its network globally.
“Championing an inclusive culture across WPP is a cornerstone of our new strategy. Diversity of views, background and experience results in better working environments and better work for clients,” WPP U.K. country manager Karen Blackett OBE said in a statement.
Additionally, WPP is part of a number of external industry partnerships, including a partnership with UN Women to support the UN’s goal of gender equality by 2030 and empowering women across the world, and Women’s Empowerment Principles – Equality Means Business, “a guide established by UN Women and UN Global Compact for businesses on how to take corporate action to empower women in the workplace, marketplace and community,” WPP CEO Mark Read signed onto in September 2018.
“WPP’s external industry partnerships and the work we create help influence and challenge society’s perceptions of women and the gender inequality they face,” Blackett said in a statement.
“However, there is much more work to do to accelerate the progression of WPP’s female leaders,” she added. “Globally around half of our senior management are women, but we need to increase the pace of change to improve gender balance at the very highest leadership levels by focusing on programmes that create a stronger female talent pipeline.”