My efforts on this issue have reached Cambridge’s ears and the Director of External Affairs is seeking a meeting with me. So full marks to him for a quick approach. We will meet in a week or so. I have no doubt there are rafts of ‘reasons’ as to why there is a gender pay gap (and Cambridge is not alone in this regard). The even more depressing aspect though, is Cambridge’s response to the figures – which is basically that women are on the lower paid rungs of the greasy pole – as if that was OK!
Anyway – point is – I am not an investigator – which is why I have asked the Equalities Commission to investigate the situation. That, after all, is their job!
Over on the Spectator, Martin Bright, in his blog calls me redoubtable (love it) for unearthing this report – but ‘unearthing’ is not really how it happened. The report, as I understand it, was completed last year but only saw light of day on 18th February when the Council at Cambridge discussed its findings. Whether it was sat on until then or simply that is the way things are done at Cambridge – I have no idea. What I will say for Cambridge however, at least they have produced a document voluntarily which does look at the pay – which is more than can be said for many.
One of the underlying issues equally damaging to sorting out pay issues is the habit of gagging staff. Gagging clauses have themselves been severely criticised within the university – see the debate on the web here, especially in the speech of Dr Cowley (near the end). This is the most relevant bit:
To finish I would like to make a suggestion. While the white paper makes a great deal of academic freedom, it’s not clear that the HR Division itself is really in favour of freedom of speech. As part of my concerns over the white paper I have tried to talk to members of staff, here and elsewhere, who have been dismissed, or ‘persuaded’ to take severance or early retirement. I have found it difficult to find out what happened because of gagging clauses. In a University that believes in freedom of speech they are an affront. Even the HEFCE does not seem too keen on them, at least in the case of Senior Staff earning more than £70,000.
Institutions must not agree to confidentiality clauses within any severance agreements except where it is necessary to protect commercially sensitive information. Commercially sensitive information does not include information on the details of the severance package itself, nor generalised clauses whereby individuals undertake not to make statements that might damage the reputation of an institution. However, there may be exceptional cases not covered by commercial considerations, where it is in the public interest to include a confidentiality clause. In these circumstances the institution must consult with me as HEFCE chief executive, in my capacity as Accounting Officer, before agreeing to such a clause.
The University should have similar restrictions on confidentiality clauses, but for all staff.
Anyway – as I said – will see what the Director of External Affairs says when we meet. And then I should hear back from the Equalities Commission as to their take on this. They are already investigating the financial sector – so don’t see why they shouldn’t put our Ivy League universities on their list too.
However, when the Equalities Bill hits the Commons (predicted April-ish) the nation will find that the Government is still clinging to a voluntary code for pay audits. That will so not work. Pay audits must be mandatory. Whilst Cambridge has at least produced this document voluntarily, on the whole we have seen how well voluntary codes usually work – for example in the banking sector – not! Whenever I tackle Harriet Harman on this issue – she says basically if companies don’t improve in five years then the Government will look again at making pay audits mandatory. Always jam tomorrow for us girls – 30 years since the Equal Pay Act and we are still waiting – and it is an inequality that is totally unacceptable and compounds with many other inequalities that women still face.
I fear that much in the Bill is going to be watered down anyway. There were lots of ominous bits and pieces in the papers last week saying that any policy elements that cost will have to go! Denied of course by She Who Would be Prime Minister!