It was recently announced that the chief executive of easyJet has taken a pay cut in order to make his salary match that of his predecessor. Johan Lundgren took over as the chief executive last December on a basic salary of £740,000; his predecessor, Carolyn McCall, was on a salary of £706,000. Other elements of Lundgren’s remuneration package are identical to McCall’s.
In a statement released following news of his pay cut Lundgren said he wanted to “show his personal commitment” to equal pay whilst also commenting that “At easyJet we are absolutely committed to giving equal pay and equal opportunity for women and men.” However, the company currently has a large gender pay gap of 51.7% owing to the fact that 94% of its pilots (whose role commands a far higher salary than other roles) are male. EasyJet fares better than the industry standard where 96% of pilots are male.
Whilst this may be seen as a PR move by some it is also symptomatic of the new legislation which requires companies with more than 250 employees to have to report their gender pay gap by April 4. This is an insightful move by the government that has many companies quaking in their boots, fearful of reputational damage.
The BBC was the first company to come under fire for the gender pay gap, after revealing the salaries of its top-earning presenters (the majority of whom were male) in July this year. Following the demonstration of discrepancy between men and women, six of its top male presenters decided to take pay cuts to match their equivalent female colleagues. However, we are left questioning how sustainable cutting men’s pay is, and whether it could just become an excuse for employers to squeeze wages.
Cutting men’s pay also has no impact on increasing the number of women in senior positions, and this is what matters. EasyJet has set itself a target of increasing the number of female pilots recruited to 20% of its total new recruits by 2020. Opportunity and visibility are the only way we can increase the number of women in senior positions and truly decrease the gender pay gap. Cutting wages is a gimmicky move, which will not help to improve pay inequality long term. Initiatives to improve the number of women in senior positions and well-paid fields such as STEM and finance, which are traditionally male-dominated, is the only way to truly reduce the gender pay gap.