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As far as the gender pay gap in Britain goes, IBM could do much worse

Still work to do, and could take some lessons from Microsoft

It appears that IBM's Human Resources department has skills that extend beyond the laying off of large swathes of staff.

It has emerged that the boys and girls at Big Blue enjoy a gender pay gap that is better than average (in the UK at least), although HR could take some lessons from Microsoft.

An internal report (PDF) obtained by the observers at WatchingIBM paints a relatively rosy picture of IBM's British operations, with the median gap being 14.6 per cent. IBM reckons that compares favourably with a national average of 18.4 per cent over all industries.

Furthermore, salaries for men and women in the same role at the same band are within 1 per cent of each other. IBM pointed to the policy of "Equal Pay for Equal Work" put in place by its founder, Thomas Watson, as its guiding principle.

Why IBM needs a "guiding principle" to know that paying people the same for doing the same job in the same place is the right thing to do is anyone's guess.

IBM blames the median gap on having more males than females in high-paying roles. Luckily, as well as keeping an eye on the gender difference, its HR team is more than adept at swinging the axe. Getting that headcount down is sure to shrink the gap, right? Right?

Of course, unless those layoffs hit the higher echelons of IBM, the pay split is unlikely to see much improvement. And those at the top seem unaffected, at least in the pay-packet department, by the troubles assailing Big Blue. CEO Ginni Rometty also appears more than capable of matching her male counterparts in the absurd rider stakes.

The UK's gender pay gap reporting rules mean that companies with more than 250 employees need to publish information such as the mean and median pay gap in hourly pay between genders. Another IT giant in the UK, Microsoft, shows that IBM still has a way to go.

The median pay gap at Microsoft is 8.4 per cent, with a mean pay gap of 6.6 per cent (compared to IBM's 15.9 per cent).

Employees in the same role are within a gnat's whisker of each other – for every £1 earned by a male employee, a female earns 99.8p in the same job and level. Microsoft also gets a nod for its progressiveness, listing 26.5 per cent of its workforce as "identifying as female" while IBM sticks to "male" and "female".

Both IBM and Microsoft share a problem endemic to tech. A lack of women in leadership positions means that getting that pay gap reduced will be tricky. Microsoft has 22.9 per cent of top-level jobs filled by women, which seems bad until one looks at IBM's even worse 17.5 per cent.

Both tech giants recognise the challenge and are taking steps to address it. Microsoft works in the UK education system to encourage more women to take technical subjects and IBM has trumpeted its 2018 Catalyst Award for advancing women in business.

In an industry often drenched in testosterone, that cannot come quickly enough. ®

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