Gender pay gap bot exposes companies on International Women's Day

Some companies celebrating International Woman's Day found themselves under scrutiny. Credit: PA

By Lottie Kilraine, Multimedia Producer

A viral gender pay gap bot has been exposing the difference in pay between men and women across the UK as companies take to social media to celebrate International Women's Day.

Whenever an employer tweets about International Women's Day or uses the hashtag #IWD2023, their most recent gender pay gap is published as a quote tweet.

Some of the companies the bot @PayGapApp has called out in 2023 for their most recently available pay gap data include NHS Trusts, local councils and even an airline.

Lingerie brand Ann Summers was among businesses hit by backlash on Twitter after the bot said women's median hourly pay at the retailer is 31% lower than men's.

The pay gap is 30.6 percentage points wider than the previous year, according to PayGapApp.

In response, A=a representative for the company - which describes itself as 'a business-led by women for women' - said the results "do not reflect the reality of our business".

UK companies with more than 250 employees are required to publish this data on the government's website Gender Pay Gap Service, and that's where PayGapApp pulls the data from.

The automated Twitter bot says it uses the median because very high or low pay can distort the average- the median is considered to show the more 'typical' situation.

The gender pay gap is a comparison of men and women's average pay across an organisation, not a comparison of pay for equivalent roles.

A spokesperson for Ann Summers told ITV News: "Through our diversity, equality and inclusion strategy, we are striving to support greater gender and cultural diversity as a business.

"It is therefore unfortunate that within the gender pay gap reporting framework we are only able to identify our colleagues through binary gender, and not how they choose to represent as individuals.

"Despite this, on the 5th April 2022 we employed 623 females and 94 males, demonstrating how female-centric our business is. Of those 623 females, 461 work in our retail stores.

"Given the sheer number of females we employ in store (where the hourly rate is generally lower than for our head office roles), we see our gender pay gap figures appear unfairly skewed towards males."

Where the Gender Pay Gap Service has data for two consecutive years, the quote tweet also displays how much the gap has changed - to show which company is making progress and who is letting the gap widen.

Some organisations have been found to have achieved equal pay for men and women, including Barnsley Council and Derby City Council this year.

The Labour Party also has equal pay for men and women, with the pay gap being 4.1 percentage points smaller than the previous year, according to PayGapApp.

A Labour Party spokesperson told ITV News: "The Labour Party is proud to have eliminated our gender pay gap.

"We are proud to have achieved pay equality between men and women in our own organisation and are committed to making this the norm for the country."

Francesca Lawson, 28, set up the Gender Pay Gap Bot in 2021 with Ali Fensome, also 28, after being inspired by other automated Twitter accounts.

The pair wanted to force “a bit more accountability” around International Women’s Day after finding businesses often used social media to proclaim their support for their female workforce.

Francesca Lawson (left) set up the Gender Pay Gap Bot in 2021 with Ali Fensome. Credit: PA

Ms Lawson, a freelance copywriter and social media manager, said: “We can’t rest on our laurels and just sort of pat ourselves on the back.

“If I’m that inspirational then pay me properly. I think (the PayGapApp has) potentially tapped into something. This frustration is not unique to me.

“People are getting wise to the kind of corporate virtue signaling and having the wool pulled over their eyes a bit in terms of how businesses talk about themselves versus how they actually act the other 364 days of the year.”

The PayGapApp account has also launched a new request feature for 2023, which lets users tweet at them asking for the data from a specific company.

Ms Lawson said the work of the gender pay gap bot will continue for years to come.

She added that the goal is never to stop any companies from tweeting but rather to encourage them to provide “a bit more of a considered response”.

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