Major Fashion Names Among Worst Offenders in Britain Gender Pay Gap

In a statement, the company said that this was because the majority of its retail assistants and distribution center staff were women, and that the small percentage of male employees worked mostly in its head office.

“Our gender gap paints a misleading picture about our commitment to gender diversity and equality,” the statement read, adding that when head office roles were excluded, the gender pay gap dropped to 6 percent. It did not, however, address why so many head office roles were filled by men instead of women.

Other high-profile names included Victoria’s Secret, with a median hourly rate gap of 19 percent, and Benefit Cosmetics, which revealed a 30.7 percent median hourly rate gap, although women made up more than 90 percent of each pay quartile at the company. At Burberry, where women make up 70 percent of the luxury fashion group’s employees, there is a 26 percent gender pay gap in favor of men, who get higher bonuses too. None of the companies in this article wished to provide further comment beyond the statements released with their data.


A Karen Millen store in New York.

Chris Goodney/Bloomberg

“While we continue to take steps to ensure employees at all levels are able to fulfill their potential and further their careers at Burberry, and are recognized for their contribution, we know we can do more,” said the Burberry chief executive, Marco Gobbetti, when the company released its data last month. “This report shows that we have a gender pay gap in the U.K. The gap is influenced by the fact that we have fewer women in senior positions, however we are committed to narrowing this gap as we work to develop more women leaders to drive the growth and success of our business.”

More than 2,500 companies, equivalent to one in four, submitted their gender pay gap figures in the 48 hours before midnight on Wednesday. Last year, the government ordered all British companies with more than 250 employees to publish their gender pay gap reports by midnight on April 4.

The hope, it said, was to shame companies into doing more to close the divide. On the final day of results, findings indicated that 78 percent of companies showed a pay gap in favor of men, 14 percent had a gap favoring women and 8 percent had no gender pay gap. The government calculated that Britain’s overall pay gap is 18.1 percent.

Prime Minister Theresa May called the gender pay gap a “burning injustice,” and added that the whole of society would remain “poorer” if outdated employment practices went unchallenged.

The effort in Britain is one of a growing number of initiatives among countries to promote equal pay. Australia recently mandated gender pay gap reporting for most companies, while in Germany a new law will require businesses with more than 500 employees to reveal their pay gaps. The fashion industry, riding high on selling female empowerment via T-shirt slogans and social media hashtags, is starting to look like the employer equivalent of the emperor’s new clothes.

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