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UK's large TMT firms make progress on gender pay gap, perform better than others

The United Kingdom's largest publicly traded companies in the telecom and media industries have yet to achieve gender pay parity, though nearly all are closing the gap, according to data compiled by S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Under U.K. law, companies with 250 or more employees must publish gender pay data including the mean and median gap and the proportion of men and women in each quartile pay band.

Reports submitted by the April 4 deadline reveal the U.K.'s top 10 publicly traded telecom and media companies by market capitalization have an average median gender pay gap that is marginally lower than the cross-sector figure. The average median difference in pay between men and women at these companies is 16.23%, while according to the U.K.'s Office for National Statistics, the gap among all employees is 17.9%, down from 18.4% the previous year.

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Online real estate business Rightmove PLC reported the widest gap of the 10 at 36.4%, though its disclosure showed a slight improvement year over year. Rightmove said women are underrepresented in higher-paid leadership and technology roles, while men are underrepresented in entry-level roles such as customer experience.

The company acknowledged that, as a sector, "technology notoriously struggles with gender balance."

"Similar to other companies in our industry we have fewer women in our highly paid technical roles," said Rightmove. The company noted, however, that a "renewed focus" on its recruiting process has increased the proportion of women in product and technology teams to 25% in 2018 from 18% in 2017.

Meanwhile, theater chain Cineworld Group PLC and operator British Telecom reported the smallest median pay gaps, at 1% and 5%, respectively.

Eight of the 10 companies have reduced their pay gap since the prior-year reporting period. Only BT and advertising and public relations company WPP PLC saw their pay gaps widen, growing 6.4% and 2.1%, respectively.

BT said its gender pay gap is competitive for the telecom sector. Although it saw a slight year-over-year increase, the operator claims it is seeing "encouraging results" across the group overall.

The telco's analysis showed that its pay gap is driven by the structure of its workforce, a spokesperson told S&P Global Market Intelligence. Similar to Rightmove, BT has fewer women at more senior and leadership levels, and they are also underrepresented in technical and engineering roles. BT plans to have women in 30% of its leadership roles and in 40% of senior management roles by 2020. At the moment, women make up 20% and 33%, respectively.

Liberty Global PLC, which is among the top 10 public telecom and media companies by market capitalization, did not file a report but its unlisted U.K. subsidiary Virgin Media did. It saw a 13.8% median hourly difference. Another large but unlisted company Sky PLC, which was recently acquired by Comcast Corp., reported a 7.8% gap.

The Government Equalities Office has been working with employers over the past year to implement action plans to reduce their gender pay gaps. The government also has introduced shared parental leave and childcare support to encourage the cultural change needed to close the gender pay gap.

The Office for National Statistics highlighted that the gender pay gap for full-time workers is almost zero between the ages of 18 and 39. The law does not make companies publish data on the average age of their employees.