Clearly, the UK Government is a leader in the field of open data and transparency: it is this commitment to transparency as well as a commitment to addressing the issue of gender and work that has made this research possible. Whilst some of this report may make it difficult reading for some parts of the public sector supply chain, our research makes it easier for our government to address the gender pay gap in public contracting and to use procurement expenditure to deliver improved social outcomes for its citizens.
1. Publish more open data.
Other governments around the world should follow suit and openly publish their contracting and gender pay gap reporting data. Globally, public contracting is valued at $13trn or around 11% of global GDP, publishing this data using the Open Contracting Data Standard could significantly improve the position of women in the workplace around the world. The UK also has a role to play in making sure that this unique analysis is taken up by Government and used to deliver beneficial changes for women in the workplace.
2. Make gender pay disparity data part of supplier registration.
Governments are outsourcing more and more business to companies, they need to act if they don’t want to simply outsource their responsibility to women in the workplace. Even if data on gender disparity is not widely available, public sector buyers around the world can work with suppliers and industry bodies to establish the need to report on gender disparity as a condition of bidding for, or winning large public contracts.
3. Include gender profiling in beneficial ownership data.
It is not enough to understand whether there is a gender pay gap, much of the challenge associated with the world of work starts with company ownership and the overwhelming number of men who start and run companies. Profiling companies to establish whether they are owned in whole or in part by women can provide useful insights into whether female-owned companies are being given a chance to win business with government. A similar recommendation was made in a recent UK Government Digital Service commissioned report by Oxford Insights “Gender Equality and Social Inclusion in ICT Procurement”. Establishing this measure could also allow for specific programmes of support for female entrepreneurs who wish to sell into government.
4. Share good practice with the private sector.
Although UK government departments’ pay gap average is still 9.85% in men’s favour, their performance is better than their private sector partners and particularly the strategic suppliers. In this context, the public sector can provide good advice to their suppliers on how to reduce the pay gap.
5. Start to evaluate supplier’s performance on gender pay disparity during bids.
Public sector buyers are gatekeepers to a market worth nearly $13 trillion around the world. These buyers are therefore in a unique position to affect the corporate strategies of the companies bidding for this business. If governments are serious about tackling the gender pay disparity, then they should be willing to ask suppliers with the worst pay disparity what they are doing to address their performance. At the same time, buyers should be willing to award contracts to suppliers that have a better pay disparity performance than their rivals.
For instance, the UK’s policy to consider social value in the awarding of central government contracts could be updated to explicitly evaluate the gender pay gap of bidders on contracts and whether that pay gap is either increasing or decreasing.
The OECD has shown that 50% of governments have legislative frameworks that tackle the issue of gender in public procurement. Fully implementing these legal options will depend on better use of open data for contracting.
6. Work towards continuous improvement in gender pay as part of contract management.
The bid process only represents a single snapshot in time and requires contract management to monitor and enforce action plans. One way to encourage better performance is to measure the progress that suppliers make in gender pay disparity over the duration of a contract. As a condition for entering on frameworks or to become eligible to enter a contract, public buyers can request regular submission of evidence of work on action plans for gender equality in pay and audit these. Buyers should monitor how the average pay disparity across a category changes over time and adopt greater or lesser interventions according to annual progress.
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