Mind the Ethnicity Pay Gap

Last week the Office of National Statistics (ONS) released its first official statistics on ethnicity pay gaps.

Founder of BAME in Property, Priya Shah, considers some of the challenges around ethnicity pay gap reporting and how BAME in Property can support the industry in this mammoth task.

London, which has the highest proportion of people classified as being in an ethnic minority group, had the largest pay gap between white and ethnic minority groups, at 21.7%.

This figure is hardly surprising, merely reiterating what we’ve known for years.

The Government has already introduced mandatory reporting on the gender pay gap - which stands at 9.6% in favour of men - and the ONS data also shows discrepancies in male and female earnings in the ethnic groups.

Many people are now calling for ethnicity pay gap reporting to become mandatory, in a bid to encourage companies to take tangible action to reduce injustices between BAME and non-BAME workers.

But it won't be an easy ride ahead. One of the biggest issues with pay gap reporting, but particularly, ethnicity pay gap reporting is data collection. Many ethnic minorities are reluctant to disclose personal information about their ethnicity and religion, often fearing that this could be a hindrance in their progression within a company.

You only have to take a look at the industry to see the complete lack of diversity within companies at senior levels. The perception this gives is that ethnic minorities are less likely to be considered or put forward for such positions. As a result, many people would rather keep their ethnicity to themselves to even make it beyond the recruitment screening process.

Unlike gender pay gap reporting, which is quite binary, ethnicity pay gap reporting is far more nuanced. Within the BAME umbrella, different ethnicities do better than others. The ONS data showed that Chinese and Indian ethnic group workers have higher average earnings than their white British counterparts. In 2018, employees from the Chinese ethnic group earned 30.9% more than white British employees. By contrast, Bangladeshi’s are the UK’s lowest earners.

There is also the issue of back office and client facing roles. The reality being that ethnic minorities, on balance, tend to have more back office positions, such as in admin or finance. Companies might be able to meet an ethnicity pay gap quota through such positions. However, the real question we should be asking is whether a BAME person and a white person in the same client-facing role are earning the same.

“ This is not just an issue for ethnic minorities, but the ethnicity pay gap effects everyone.”

The challenges should not be a reason to stop the real estate sector in tackling the ethnicity pay gap. This is not just an issue for ethnic minorities, but the ethnicity pay gap affects everyone.

It is extremely discouraging for prospective BAME professionals looking to enter the industry to see that there is a substantive ethnicity pay gap. You’ve already got them questioning their value, worth and ultimately, their place in the company. Companies could miss out on vital talent and diversity in thought, crucial for our sector to continue thriving.

“ We want your talent and skills, but we don't think you should be earning the same as your white counterparts.”

Putting aside the talent argument for ethnicity pay gap reporting, at the very least, it is morally right to pay two people doing the same job, the same amount. Companies that don’t are essentially classifying BAME professionals as second-class citizens, suggesting ‘We want your talent and skills, but we don’t think you should be earning the same as your white counterparts.’

At BAME in Property, encouraging the real estate sector to report on the ethnicity pay gap is a priority. We want current and future generations entering the industry to see that equal pay is a priority and that it is an inclusive place to work.

A number of our future events over the next 18 months will be focusing on ethnicity pay gap and some of the challenges facing data collection and reporting. Moreover, our Corporate Members will be discussing this issue at a high-level, sharing ideas and best practice on how to approach this task. This is not a competitive process, as no company can whole-heartedly admit that they have eliminated the ethnicity pay gap. Rather, collaboration will be encouraged, as the whole industry needs to improve.

It won’t be an easy task, but it is necessary. We are encouraging companies in the real estate sector to stop talking about the ethnicity pay gap and start reporting.