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British music companies admit ‘unacceptable’ gender pay gaps


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Yesterday was the deadline for all British companies with more than 250 employees to report their ‘gender pay gaps’ to the UK government’s Equalities Office. The definition of this being the difference between the average hourly earnings of men and women for each company.

Each firm has reported their ‘mean’ gender pay gap (based on adding the wages of all staff and dividing it by the number of staff) and their ‘median’ gender pay gap (based on the difference between the male and female employees in the middle of the pay range – which reduces any possible skew from the highest earners.

All these reports are public: feast your eyes on the figures from Universal Music UKSony Music UKWarner Music UKKobalt Music GroupPRS for MusicPPL and Live Nation UK, for example. Does the music industry cover itself in diversity glory with the figures? In a word: nope.

For the three major labels, the mean gender pay gaps are 29.8% (UMG); 22.7% (Sony) and 49% (WMG) – an average of 33.8% across the majors, which means that when comparing mean hourly rates, women earn 76.2 pence for every £1 that men earn. Their median gender pay gaps are 16.7%, 4.6% and 21% respectively, averaging out at 14.1% (so women earn 75.9p for every £1 that men earn).

Kobalt’s pay gap is 19.7% (mean) and 16.4% (median); Live Nation’s 46% and 31%; and PRS for Music’s 17.2% and 11.5%. PPL should maybe take a bow: while its mean gender pay gap is 6.6%, its median hourly rate is actually 4.3% higher for women than men. Useful figures for comparing all this: the average median gender pay gap for all companies in the UK is 9.1% – based on full-time staff only.

The issue being pinpointed here is the lack of women in senior (and thus higher-paid) positions at music companies: while the stats may be UK-specific, the issue is global. In its report, UMG noted that it had appointed women as presidents for two of its five frontline labels since the period covered by the report; noted that bonuses paid to senior A&R staff (who are still more likely to be men) had an impact on its figures; and pointed to mentoring schemes and family-friendly policies as measures to reduce the “unacceptable” pay gap.

Sony Music said that in the past year, “more than half” of new joiners were women while flagging up its own maternity leave policies and development programs. Meanwhile, WMG held up its hands and admitted that “Our current gender pay gap numbers make starkly clear the need for us to accelerate the pace of change within our company… we’re acutely aware there’s still much more work to do.”

That emphasises the most important point about yesterday’s figures (and one that should resonate well beyond the UK) – pay gap stats are a vital snapshot of where this aspect of diversity currently stands, but what’s just as crucial is what all these companies do about it in the coming months.

Stuart Dredge

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