New Report Shows a 14% Median Gender Pay Gap Across U.K. WPP Agencies

It also outlined initiatives to address the issue

U.K. government regulations now require all companies with 250 or more employees to report such information. Getty Images

Holding company WPP released its U.K. Gender Pay Gap Report 2017 with results showing the realities around the lingering issue of pay inequality.

WPP released the report following new regulations from the U.K. government requiring all companies with 250 or more employees to report such information. The report shows a 14.6 percent median gender pay gap across WPP’s U.K. agencies with 250 or more employees, compared to a median gender pay gap of 18.4 percent across the U.K. for qualifying companies, according to the Office of National Statistics.

“We welcome the government’s action on gender pay gap reporting, which will be a spur to further action by employers,” WPP U.K. country manager Karen Blackett said in a statement. “WPP does not struggle to attract female talent. We have a gender-balanced workforce and all our companies work hard to ensure everyone is treated equally and has the same opportunities to develop in their career.”

WPP reports a gender balance of 51 percent men and 49 percent women at its U.K. agencies.

“Nonetheless, in common with the industry as a whole, we need to do more to change the gender profile of our leadership teams if we are to close our pay gap,” Blackett added. “We are placing an even greater emphasis on the development of female leaders, which includes actively promoting best practice in recruitment, training, mentoring, parental leave and flexible working within our companies.”

WPP’s group mean pay gap for 2017 was 25.5 percent, with that larger figure presumably impacted by the disproportionate number of male executives in top-paying roles. According to the report, males overrepresent females in upper pay quartile positions at qualifying WPP agencies by a proportion of 62 percent to 38 percent, while women represent the majority of the lower pay quartile at 55 percent.

Not all WPP agencies are approaching pay equity at an equal rate. JWT’s median pay gap of 44.7 percent was the highest listed, and AKQA’s 30.5 percent figure was also significantly higher than the average for WPP agencies and companies across the country overall. Precise Media Monitoring was the lowest among qualifying WPP agencies in the country at 2.1 percent, followed by 3.9 percent for Hill & Knowlton.

WPP’s report also outlined some of the initiatives the holding company and its agencies were taking to address gender pay gap issues. WPP requires unconscious bias training as part of its wider ethics training course, diversity and inclusion training for senior leadership and each of its agencies were required to launch their own inclusion and diversity training courses in 2017.

The holding company also has an “X Factor” mentoring and development program for senior female employees, “Women in Leadership Lessons” professional development programs and supports U.K. Creative Equals, a program focused on getting more women into creative leadership roles.

In April of 2016, WPP media agency Maxus introduced Walk The Talk, an intensive coaching program for women designed to empower female employees.

“I am immensely proud of the impact this programme is having on women within WPP—but we still have work to do,” GroupM chief transformation officer Lindsay Pattison said in a statement. “It’s the responsibility of every leader, male and female, to keep up the momentum.”

WPP is expanding Walk The Talk across GroupM this year, rolling it out to reach 300 women globally.

“From my own experience I know that greater diversity, inclusion and gender balance leads to more successful and rewarding workplaces,” Blackett said in a statement. “Our challenge is to make sure that our management teams better reflect our business as a whole.”


@ErikDOster erik.oster@adweek.com Erik Oster is an agencies reporter for Adweek.
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