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Stirring up a hornet’s nest? – Lifting the lid on the gender pay gap in UK aviation

Whatever the idiom you choose, whether it’s stirring up a hornets nest, or not being able to put the toothpaste back in the tube, the disclosures made by UK companies concerning the gender pay gap reveal information which will have many (mostly female) justifiably angry and which can’t be unlearned. The legislation, which required companies with more than 250 staff to publish a specific set of statistics including the gap between the mean and median pay of men and of women in their firms, by 4th April 2018, and provides a new layer of detail about how the pay of women differs from that of men.

As a business where data is a valuable asset and benchmarking is our bread and butter – and where two of the three partners are female – we at MIDAS Aviation take a keen interest in this sort of data. But what does it tell us? For UK aviation, it appears that the airports do better than airlines.

On the whole, airports appear to have a lower gender pay gap than the UK average which sits at 18.4% when part-time staff are included[1]. That is good news for women working at airports though it still leaves us asking why Manchester Airport can manage with half the gap that many of its peers manage. It’s interesting that Manchester Airports Group, which operates Manchester Airport, London Stansted and East Midlands Airport publish their own gender pay gap report, which includes what actions they are taking to address disparity, while at least some of their peers choose not to.

Gender Pay Gap.png

Airlines fare a lot worse and many of them have seen their names in headlines in recent weeks as the mainstream media pick up on the vast differences in average pay between the sexes. For them the numbers don’t just look bad, they are bad. Inevitably there has been much explaining away. Senior roles are dominated by men. Pilots with high levels of remuneration are predominantly male. More women work part-time. Allowances for unsocial shifts go to more men than women. There’s nothing we’ve not heard before.

The question many these firms need to be asking is what needs to change. What is it about their hiring policies which mean women don’t get to be pilots or want to be engineers? And why are the traditionally male jobs paid more in the first place? Why should a career-minded and smart female be expected to work for a lower hourly rate if she needs to work part-time?

Change comes from the top and a quick trawl through the boards of many of the UK’s leading aviation businesses shows that the Boards are predominantly male too. But evidence is mounting that gender diverse boards perform better and are more profitable. So, it’s great to see some of these companies publishing reports online about what they are doing to address the gender pay gap, but there is clearly more to do.

Airlines gender pay.png

Having worked with, and developed new, benchmarking datasets for the global aviation industry, we know that change takes time. It’s not unusual for those singled out for poor performance to attempt to explain away the results at first and we’ve seen this in benchmarking of on-time performance and passenger perceptions of service quality. With time, however, the most progressive companies use data to inform their strategies and reap dividends in improved performance when they get it right.  

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[1] http://www.equalpayportal.co.uk/statistics/

MIDAS Aviation