Article | 19 Jun 2024

Closing the Gap: 3 Insights Into Tackling Ethnicity Pay Disparities

Posted in PR and Communications, Business, Learning, Events, Client,

Fees. Salary. Finances. Money isn’t a topic that’s long been openly discussed – in professional or personal settings. But in more recent years, there’s been an increasing need and appetite to open the doors to where negotiations take place, and tackle sectors’ historical hangovers when it comes to dollars and cents.

When it comes to DE&I, this has never been so critical. Establishing a truly equitable, fair and safe space within business cannot be achieved without addressing pay disparities. And sharing practical methods to help close the gap.

In our latest read, we’re sharing 3 insights from our recent webinar, Closing the Gap: Tackling Ethnicity Pay Disparities. Watch the full talk here. Featuring Effie Kanyua, Founder of We Are Warriors PR and LILA Assistant, Sheeraz Gulsher, Founder of People Like Us and Braver, and Barbara Phillips, CEO of the Black Curriculum and Chair of the PRCA Race and Ethnicity Equity Board (REEB).

Insight #1: There’s no one reason behind pay gaps and disparities…

… but dismantling these means first understanding the many contributing factors. Conscious and unconscious bias both play a role, and have often presented challenges for disarming inequalities. Panellist, Effie Kanyua also highlights “occupational segregation”, where certain industries and professions are largely dominated by one gender or ethnic group – resulting in historic pay disparities. And of course: lack of representation in leadership.

"If you don’t have representation in key decision-making places, then we can’t see change. And there’s a long way to go to achieve that."

  - Effie Kanyua, Founder of We Are Warriors PR & LILA Assistant

A lack of transparency could also be at play. In recent years, there’s been a greater call for brands to publish their salary bands and create clearer provisions for promotions and pay review processes. But this is still a relatively new, and not universally accepted practice.

Takeaway: Self-awareness and self-advocacy are essential

Understanding is one aspect, but it’s equally important to look critically at how it applies in real life. For businesses, this means looking at whether such factors are present in your company, and identifying real ways to address them. For talent, this means advocating for yourself and your capabilities within professional settings.

Insight #2: Gaps transcend ‘traditional’ job roles.

Pay disparities may be most commonly-discussed in employment, but they’re prevalent in startup and scaleup investment, too. Women typically receive around 2% of total annual VC funding, while last year in the US, black-founded companies received less than 0.5% of allocated investment – a figure which has been declining since 2021.

“Gaps in funding translate to gaps in bank loans, which translate to what resources your business then has access to – and the cycle goes on. If there’s a gap based on my ethnicity or background, it impacts the whole trajectory of my life.”

          - Barbara Phillips, CEO of the Black Curriculum and Chair of the PRCA REEB

The panellists highlighted that for founders of colour, securing investment and consequently partners can be a drastically difficult path, and in many instances, many founders will avoid going down the traditional route due to inaccessibility.

Takeaway: Familiarise yourself with alternative funding options

For founders, it may be worth considering alternative options. Self-funding, funding from peers, or VCs with a particular interest in businesses developed by people of colour. It doesn’t solve the systemic issue, but it does increase the number of businesses founded by people from different ethnic backgrounds. And contribute to improving the overall position for others.

Insight #3: Clients can support representation within partnerships.

ESG and DE&I reporting are becoming an increasingly common factor in selecting partnerships, with many organisations favouring agencies achieving greater outcomes. Our panellists discussed how clients could go further with supporting representation, by ensuring their account team comprises a diverse group of professionals.

"If a brand wants to communicate to a diverse audience, they need diverse partners to help them achieve that […] Sometimes having a difficult conversation can create better outcomes for everyone."

- Sheeraz Gulsher, Founder of People Like Us and Braver

Across sectors, industries and regions, accurately communicating to diverse demographics has never been so critical, not only from a commercial standpoint, but a reputational one, too. Meaning having partners who understand and can reflect these needs is key.

Takeaway: If you’re in a position to influence positive change, use it

Equal representation (and subsequently pay) can only be achieved by a truly collaborative, joined-up approach – this includes brands looking for an agency partner. Clearly communicating expectations at RFP stage is essential for a productive partnership, and this should include the voices you want on your account team.

Final thoughts

DE&I is a long-term investment for any organisation. But pay disparities are foundational to a wealth of other obstacles in achieving true equality. Within businesses, organisations, VCs and practically every other corner of the professional landscape.

Right now, there’s far more that leaders can and must do to address these disparities, and do so openly, honestly and collaboratively. By creating measurable frameworks and practical solutions to their internal and external structures, organisations can more effectively move the needle, and lay the foundations to a more accessible, fair climate in the years ahead.

If you’d like support with your DE&I strategy, get in touch with a member of our team today. Our network of thousands of professionals can help you develop meaningful and measurable ways to tackle your organisation’s biggest hurdles.