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Gender pay gap 2019: Foster + Partners reports small improvement

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Foster + Partners, the UK’s largest employer of architects, has published its second annual pay gap figures, revealing a marginal improvement on last year’s numbers

The practice’s gender pay gap, the difference in the median hourly wage of men and women, has improved from a 10.5 per cent disparity to 9.8 per cent.

The figures mean the AJ100 big hitter continues to come in under the 16.3 per cent average from last year’s inaugural pay gap reporting, taken from the 11 practices big enough to qualify for the government’s 250-employee threshold.

Fosters’ figures also reveal a marked improvement on bonuses, with 85 per cent of women now receiving them, up from 75 per cent in 2018. The percentage of men receiving a bonus remained the same, at 90 per cent.

The difference between the bonuses received by men and women at Fosters has also narrowed – to 15.8 per cent from 33 per cent last year.

In terms of company make-up, women comprised 20 per cent of the company’s top-paid quartile, exactly the same as last year, but the proportion of women in the practice’s lowest-paid quartile fell from 44 per cent to 41 per cent.

In a statement accompanying its figures, the firm said: ‘We are pleased to report that our median pay gap reduced from 10.5 per cent to 9.8 per cent, which compares favourably with the industry average of 23.6 per cent.

‘The main reason for the gap remains with us having more men, with longer service, in senior higher-paid roles within the practice.’

In 2018, the practice said it had made a further four women senior partners and said it was encouraging more women into senior roles through its leadership development and mentoring programme.  

The government has kept the gender pay gap reporting rules the same for 2019, despite calls from MPs to be ‘more ambitious’ and widen the exercise to include all companies above 50 employees. 

The business, energy and industrial strategy committee (BEIS) published a report in August that recommended including company partners’ pay in gender pay gap reporting, saying its exclusion ’makes a nonsense’ of efforts to understand the scale of the pay gap.

Last year practices set up as limited liability partnerships (LLPs) including Hawkins\Brown, Sheppard Robson, Allies and Morrison and TP Bennett confirmed they were not required to include partners earnings as they are not technically employees.

The RIBA published its own pay gap figures voluntarily, with its president Ben Derbyshire calling on smaller practices to follow suit. 

The AJ will be keeping track of the profession’s gender pay gap – click here to see how practices compare

Median pay gap 

When calculating pay gaps, the median hourly rate is calculated by ranking all employees from the highest paid to the lowest paid, and taking the hourly wage of the person in the middle.

The median gender pay gap is, therefore, the difference between women’s median hourly wage (the middle paid woman) and men’s median hourly wage (the middle paid man).

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Readers' comments (1)

  • This continual showcasing of a single factor, pay, is lazy journalism and meaningless without a multi-valent analysis of all the factors involved. Women make different life choices and as a whole have different aptitudes and skillset potential than men, although everything is nuanced and nothing is a 100% rule. I suggest the AJ carry out a detail analysis and updates across many influencing factors. That would be a really useful tool in, eg, helping to stop the marginalisation of women trying to get back into architecture after having young children, and determining what proportion of roles in architecture are suitable for each of men and women. It may find out that there are less suitable roles in the profession for the MAJORITY of women, not withstanding some will be better than men in the more "masculine" roles. Admit it, men and women are different. There, I've opened a hornets nest, but the default rejection of this without scientific evidence is getting tiresome. ps, our practice is 60% female at present, slightly under resourced in technical skill, and pay is by skill not gender.

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