The gender pay gap: what median pay gap says about your company?


In the UK regulations to publish data on the gender pay gap came into force, companies with over 250 employees were required from 2018 to publish figures on their gender pay gap.  In 2017 the then UK Prime Minister Theresa May called the gender pay gap a ‘burning injustice’.

The gender pay gap is not about equal pay- the Equal Pay Act 1970, updated in 2018 ensures that it is unlawful employment practice for employers to pay less in wages, benefits, or compensation to members of a protected class for “substantially similar work.

The gender pay gap says something else about a company. It is a measure of the median wage – ie the difference between middle ranking men and middle ranking women. The simplest explanation of a difference is that there are more men earning more and more women earning less. But if people get paid the same for the same job, why would this happen? This is your task to understand. You will be thinking about why it is that there are more high earning men in top positions, there are likely to be more women working part time and there are likely to be ‘gendered roles’ – when you think of a doctor who do you picture? When you think of a nurse who is it? Exactly. Why do all these things happen?

But – what should, could and can companies do about it?


Here are a few articles to get you thinking:

The Guardian 4/4/18 ‘The Guardian view on the gender pay gap: a symptom of deep prejudice’

BBC News 20/2/19 ‘Gender pay gap grows at hundreds of big firms’

Personnel Today 20/2/19 ‘Four in 10 companies have reported a wider gender pay gap’


You can explore what companies report by going to the government portal for reporting gender pay gap :

If you are going to do this example then you will probably want to look at two very helpful publications on the government site; on the Search and Compare Gender Pay Gaps page you will see links at the bottom to:

  • Eight ways to understand your organisation’s gender pay gap – there is a short report to download

A link to a page with actions to close the gap

Your task is to explore the issue of gender pay gaps as an ethical issue for management.


Your assessment into two parts with part 1 being further split into two. Read the requirements below and attempt all three parts:


Part 1

  1. You should go to the government site noted above ( and select a company you want to report on. Find its reported pay gap. You are now required to write a brief report to senior managers at the company of your choice from the perspective of an employee who has been asked to write a report for senior managers outlining the gender pay gap as an ethical issue. You will need to explore and write about a number of factors including – Why should the company be looking at this issue from an ethical perspective of ethics? How might this issue influence the public image of the company? What alternatives ways are there to think about a business’ role in society? Who/what are the stakeholders impacted in the scenario you are reporting on and how are they impacted on? Are there examples of business that act responsibly and ones that do not? You should illustrate this by including research you can find e.g. where is there research that shows good choices benefit companies and bad choices have a negative impact? Finally you should conclude with some recommendations for what the company should do (here you may want to look at the reports noted above on ‘understanding your organisation’s gender pay gap’ and ‘Actions to close the gap’.

This part of your assessment should be written as a report, but should be referenced in the normal academic way using Harvard citations and referencing.

  1. For this part you should again use the case study – but this time choose TWO ethical theories (using ones we have looked at in class) and demonstrate that you can apply these to the case to show how your chosen theories lead you to a view on the ethics of the case. For example, if you applied utilitarian thinking to the gender pay gap question what would you need to consider and how might the issue look from that perspective? Or, what if you apply Rawls idea of social justice? NOTE – you do NOT have to use ‘opposing’ ideas, we are interested most in how you use theory, if, when you apply two theories they seem to give the same answer that is fine, if they seem to give different outcomes that is fine too. This section is written in a more academic style than the report.


Part 2

Part 2 is NOT related to the case study. This section requires you to discuss what makes an ethical leader and how you would, as an ethical manager, manage your business and/or others to a high ethical standard.

You will need to think about personal ethics, about the conditions that bring about unethical organisations and practices, about organisational values and methods of compliance. This part can be written in a more reflective style, where the first person can be used.

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