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Law for Business

Knowhow - guidance - precedents

19 SEP 2013

How to Bag a Bigger Bonus

Kate Anthony Wilkinson

Few newspaper readers during August will have failed to note the debate over the benefits of higher education v the increasing debt that students take on to achieve a degree. Mildly hidden in the arguments was the fact that still, for a woman, having a degree in likely to increase lifetime salary considerably compared to her non-graduate sister, but not necessarily when compared to her graduate brother.

This fact is reinforced by recent findings of the Chartered Management Institute. Based on information obtained from over 43,000 employees, the CMI annual National Management Salary Survey records that on average in 2012, the bonuses awarded to men in management positions were twice as high as those awarded to their female counterparts in similar positions. At director level, the male director averaged a bonus 76% higher than his female colleague.

Notwithstanding the fact that there is still disparity in many cases between male and female salaries, the CMI report concluded that over their working life, a male manager was likely to earn £141,500 more in bonuses than his female counterpart doing the same job. How to bag a bigger bonus - be a man!

So much for equality in pay. But is the differential solely due to male favouritism over women? Are men so much better than women at work? Or is it in part due to the fact that women remain poorly represented at manager, executive and board level?

The CMI clearly believes that the low level of representation of women plays a factor and advocates steps to address the underlying issues to encouraged female participation at higher levels of organisations. None of their suggestions are new - targets for percentages of women at middle and top levels of organisations structures; flexible working arrangements to encourage female retention; sponsorship and mentoring of talented women - and many of the suggestions are already on the Governmen's radar.

But this is a wider problem, already evident through pay differentials and minimal representation of women at board level and now evidenced through the CMI report showing bonus inequality.

Legislation is not the answer - after all we have had the Equal Pay Act since 1970 (substantively replaced by the Equality Act 2010). A cultural sea change is needed, addressing ambition and career progression for women; childcare, career breaks and flexible working options; recognition of the skills which women generally bring to the party; mentoring and encouragement in the fight for career progression (all of which I have previously written about) but also recognition amongst men (and women) that both sexes can contribute to the success of businesses and therefore expect equal treatment in all areas of working life - including bonuses.

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