gender bias © Andrewgenn
© Andrewgenn

Ethical and moral standards notwithstanding, companies boasting mixed boards can boast higher profits.

Sadly, according to a study conducted by HR Consulting, the global shipping sector seems to have failed to recognise the benefit women bring to executive positions.

A poll of 40 companies within the sector revealed less than 1% had female representatives in executive positions.

Compensation and benefits consultant Sarah Hutley said African and UK-based companies fared the worse in these statistics, while the US led the way.

Speaking at last week’s Womens’ International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA) event, entitled The Gender Pay Gap, Ms Hutley noted: “In the US, some 20% of directors are female, while women also make up around 14% of US-based executive boards.”

“Conversely, the US lagged behind when it came to the number of women in the overall workforce – with Eastern Europe leading the way in terms of total workforce.”

Ms Hutley said that in the UK while 39% of the shipping sector workforce is comprised of women, the proportion diminishes with each step up the ladder of seniority.

She said this was also the case globally – with women holding 34% of a total 22,000 global maritime workers – with only 14% in technical roles and fewer than 1% on executive teams.

Studies by both KPMG and the Peterson Institute indicate having fewer women on company boards affects profitability, with mixed boards recording 6-19% higher profits.

And a study conducted by Spinnaker Global – HR Consulting’s parent company – put the figure even higher.

A sample of 231 companies between 2007 and 2009 suggested EBIT for mixed boards was some 56% up on those with no women at board level.

Furthermore, a separate study by KPMG on the role of diversity in the gambling sector suggested mobilising women could add an extra $12trn in economic activity by 2025.

And despite efforts in the UK to reverse the problem with the Equality Act Regulations 2016, the plight of women in the shipping workforce seems to be worsening.

The act requires companies with 250 or more employees to disclose details of the gender pay gap by April – Ms Hutley noted that with the deadline looming, some 70% are still to do this.

A study conducted by HR found the mean gap in the hourly rate between men and women to be around 39%, while the median gap was 37% in 2016.

Last year, the gap widened, with women being paid some 46.4% less than their male counterparts at a mean level, while the median gap was around 45.7%.

“Had there been an extreme between the mean and median results it would suggest that the higher earners were skewing the results,” said Ms Hutley.

“But with the mean and median difference so close, it would suggest the extremes had little effect on the overall results.”

Ms Hutley said this pay distribution illustrates the levels and types of roles women in the workforce tend to undertake, and is responsible for the large pay gap that is reported.

And while women were found to be nearly just as likely to receive a bonus as men in the industry, the value of this bonus was typically around 68% lower.

Managing director of HR Consulting Karen Waltham said reducing the pay gap and getting more women into executive positions was “not a female issue, but a business issue”.

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