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Gender pay gap: Foster + Partners reveals salary figures

Foster partners studio medium
  • 4 Comments

The UK’s largest employer of architects, Foster + Partners, has insisted its gender pay gap is not an ‘equal pay issue’ after releasing its official salary data

According to figures posted under the government’s new mandatory reporting rules, the company pays women 10.5 per cent less per hour than men based on the median of its staff salaries – the standard way of comparing payroll between firms.

The mean figure reveals an even wider pay gap of 23.8 per cent. Meanwhile bonuses for women are a third less (33.3 per cent) than those for men.

However the AJ100 top-ranked practice stressed that men and women were ‘paid equally for doing equivalent jobs across the practice’ and that it had an ‘inclusive working environment for all based on merit’.

The gap, the company claimed, was due to the imbalance between the numbers of men of women in top managerial positions.

While women make up 35 per cent of all Foster + Partners’ 1,400 staff, only a sixth (17 per cent) of the company’s senior partners and partners are female. 

A statement released by the practice reads: ’[The gender pay gap] is due to us having more men, with longer service, in senior, higher-paid roles within the practice. Correspondingly this is the case with our median bonus gap of 33 per cent.’

In an attempt to address the ’evident pay gap’, Foster + Partners’ managing partner Matthew Streets said the company was striving to encourage ’more gender diversity at senior level’.

He added: ’Over the last five years we have promoted more women to partner or senior partner level, as well as recently appointing a woman to the management board.

’The practice understands this is a complex issue and that it will take time to achieve the right balance. We are committed to closing the gender pay gap and insuring diversity and inclusion at all levels.’

Under legislation enacted last year, businesses in England, Scotland or Wales employing more than 250 people must report their gender pay gap by 4 April 2018.

The pay gap is calculated on a ‘snapshot date’ of 5 April 2017, and is expressed as the percentage difference between the average hourly earnings of men and women.

Reporting both median and mean measurements can shed light on the root causes of the pay gap. The median figure is often taken as the more accurate measure, as the mean can be skewed by the distribution of pay among employees. A larger mean pay gap suggests that a company’s top salaried roles are occupied by more men than women. 

Under the new rules, businesses are also obliged to set out how men and women are paid at all levels by dividing their payroll into quartiles. Foster + Partners revealed that among its highest-paid employees, 80 per cent are men.

Apple Mall Dubai by Foster + Partners

Apple Mall Dubai by Foster + Partners

Source: Nigel Young

Apple Mall Dubai by Foster + Partners

Few other companies in the architectural sector have so far published their gender pay gap figures.

Global big-hitter AECOM was among the first to reveal its data, confirming that it paid its female staff 21.9 per cent less per hour than its men. In terms of bonuses, women received 50 per cent less cash than men (median figure) with just less than a fifth of women (19 per cent) getting any additional monies at all.

Ove Arup and Partners also posted its data last month.

The engineering and design giant’s figures also showed that women were paid 16.7 per cent less per hour than men (median figure) and that only 22.4 per cent of the companies highest earners (top quartile) were female.

Although 84.6 per cent of women received bonuses – compared to 87.7 per cent of men – they received almost a third less (30.4 per cent on the median scale).

A company having a gender pay gap is not illegal, although the principle of equal pay has been enshrined in law since 1970. It is unlawful to pay people unequally because they are male or female.

However, a company that pays men and women of equal standing the same wage may still have a gender pay gap if its senior, well-paid roles are mostly occupied by men – as seems to be the case at Foster + Partners.

Foster + Partners is a partner to the AJ and sister title The Architectural Review’s Women in Architecture Partnership Programme

To view a list of all practices’ reported gender pay gap data, click here

  • 4 Comments

Readers' comments (4)

  • Well lovely, now that we got Fosters to reveal their pay data, how about we get practices to do anonymous employee satisfaction surveys? Anyone who has worked in this business knows that the top firms like Fosters treat their employees like indentured servants.

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  • It is refreshing to finally see an attempt by the AJ to go beyond the headline figures and actually engage in the detailed statistics to at lest some degree. This is a very good start.

    It is however, still nowhere near a deep enough analysis to uncover any actual biases, if any exist, in the profession. Most studies have indicated they don't. Women (on average) simply make different choices to men (on average). Why they do this is another matter entirely.

    On the previous comment, anonymous employee satisfaction surveys would be a very good idea indeed. It's time to uproot the unhealthy over-working culture in architecture. Fosters is one of the worst offenders for this. Maybe the AJ can pick up this baton?

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  • Absolutely, campaign for improved working conditions and prepare an anonymous satisfaction survey please AJ. Still lots to be done to support women and mothers and fathers in their architectural careers.

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  • Christine Murray

    Anonymous reviews of practices including Foster + Partners can be found on
    glassdoor.co.uk

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