In 2017 legislation was introduced that made it compulsory for firms with 250 employees or more to report on any pay gap between women and men.
By law, when it comes to the gender pay gap, eligible businesses must report a median pay gap and a mean pay gap*. The Office for National Statistics has reported the latest national average median gender pay gap as 15.5 per cent.
Below is what some of the UK’s biggest PR firms reported when they filed their reports. Due to the headcount threshold, only a handful of UK PR agencies are compelled to provide their pay gap figures. We've excluded the major holding companies where no information is available on the PR agencies at the moment. However, we've included comments at the bottom of the story from some of the larger agencies that are exempt.
Edelman has a 2021 median gender pay gap of 17.1 per cent (compared with 19.5 per cent in 2020). It has a 2021 mean gender pay gap of 19.5 per cent (compared with 18.3 per cent in 2020).
In its report, Edelman said it has a “gender pay gap when we compare the overall average pay and bonuses of our male and female staff. This gap is driven by the fact that women outnumber men 2:1 until higher grades, at which the weighting becomes 50:50 as opposed to the 60:40 consistent with the ratio within the PR industry. This can be seen clearly in our pay quartiles.”
Edelman, which has 487 employees, 64 per cent of whom are women and 36 per cent men.
For the purposes of the report, the total number of employees was divided into four pay groups (see below). The percentage figure shown is for women.
- Upper hourly pay quarter (highest paid): 50 per cent
- Upper middle pay quarter: 71 per cent
- Lower middle hourly pay quarter: 72 per cent
- Lower hourly pay quarter (lowest paid): 63 per cent
“As a business, we have set a vision and established workstreams to support not only our Gender Pay Gap commitments but ensuring we achieve equity for all,” said Edelman. “To achieve this, we focused our efforts around four core pillars: engaging and rebooting employee community groups; enhanced development programming for female leaders; data tracking and policy review; and leadership and business actions.
Edelman said these actions are “indicative of some of the activities we progressed as a business to address our gender pay gap and reflect the broader change we would like to see, as we work towards advancing equality for all.”
The gender pay gap at WPP, home to Ogilvy, BCW and Hill+Knowlton Strategies, has generally improved from the previous year, although still leans in favour of men. Mean hourly pay for men is 22.2 per cent higher than for women (2020: 24.6 per cent), and the median hourly pay is 15.6 per cent higher (2020: 17.5 per cent). This means the women in the group earn 84p for every £1 earned by the men when comparing median hourly pay.
The proportion of the workforce who are women increases inversely with seniority, as demonstrated below:
- Upper hourly pay quarter (highest paid): 42 per cent
- Upper middle pay quarter: 54 per cent
- Lower middle hourly pay quarter: 57 per cent
- Lower hourly pay quarter (lowest paid): 60 per cent
A higher proportion of men than women received a bonus over the year (47.5 per cent versus 43.2 per cent), with men’s mean bonus pay being 63.7 per cent higher than women’s. There is a 20.3 per cent median pay gap on bonuses.
Global chief people officer Jennifer Remling said WPP would “continue to build better futures for our people and invest in an inclusive culture, one where everyone has the opportunity to grow their careers and do their best work”.
There was a regression in the 2021 statistics at WPP agency Hill+Knowlton, as its median gender pay gap rose from 2.6 per cent to 8.5 per cent. Suzy Greenwood, head of business development and marketing, said H+K was “firmly committed to equal pay”. “Our 2021 report includes UK employees and some individuals from our global organisation. Our analysis shows that the gender pay gap is attributable to the fact that a few of the most senior UK and global roles in the organisation are held by men and this then impacts the salaries and bonuses that these roles attract.”
Gender pay gap information was not available for other WPP PR agencies. Below is a screenshot from WPP's Gender Pay Gap report (see full-size image).
The UK gender pay gap favours women at IPG DXTRA – Interpublic's division that includes, among others, Weber Shandwick, Golin, Current Global, Devries Global and The Brooklyn Brothers. Mean hourly pay for women in the division is 17.6 per cent higher than for men, while the median hourly pay is 17.4 per cent higher. Women earn £1.17 for every £1 that men earn when comparing median hourly pay.
The proportion of the workforce who are women at different levels of seniority is:
- Upper hourly pay quarter (highest paid): 54 per cent
- Upper middle pay quarter: 71 per cent
- Lower middle hourly pay quarter: 67 per cent
- Lower hourly pay quarter (lowest paid): 70 per cent
There is no median pay gap on bonuses. However, women’s mean bonus pay is 52.3 per cent higher than men’s, and a higher proportion of women than men received a bonus (93 per cent versus 85 per cent).
FTI Consulting’s 2021 median gender pay gap is 26.7 per cent (up from 24.6 per cent in 2020). It has a mean gap of 28.6 per cent (up from 26.2 per cent in 2020). The firm did not reveal the pay gap for the Strategic Communications division specifically.
In its report, FTI said: “While the reporting shows a slight widening of the gender pay gap compared to 2020, both the hourly pay gap and the 12-month bonus gap remain lower than the gaps reported in prior years.”
The mean bonus gap is 54.7 per cent (down 2.5 per cent on 2020) and the median bonus gap 42.5 per cent (up 3.7 per cent on 2020).
The proportion of the workforce who are women is as follows:
- Upper hourly pay quarter (highest paid): 23 per cent
- Upper middle pay quarter: 43 per cent
- Lower middle hourly pay quarter: 47 per cent
- Lower hourly pay quarter (lowest paid): 57 per cent
“While there has been a slight reduction in the mean bonus gap this year, the mean and median hourly pay gaps, as well as the median bonus gaps, have increased slightly compared to 2020,” said FTI.
“Though the 2021 figures are still below the pay and bonus gaps that were reported in 2018, we recognise that we need to be diligent in our efforts to minimise the gaps.
“We will continue to focus on achieving 50/50 balanced hiring at key levels, support our flexibility programmes to retain female talent and offer training and development opportunities to help increase the number of female leaders, to name a few.
“We know we are making progress, but there is more we will need to do to address the imbalance across our firm in terms of having more men than women in senior-level roles and having more women than men in junior-level roles. We remain actively involved in hiring, developing and retaining our employees with a goal to significantly reduce our gender pay gap over time.”
Several large agencies had not provided their gender pay gap figures when contacted by PRWeek, citing exemptions.
Brunswick said that due to its partnership structure, it does not fall under the reporting requirements at the moment. As a result of its restructure in the summer of 2021, it will be required to report starting this time next year.
Teneo has not collated figures as the number of employees did not meet the threshold last year. Following expansion in 2021 it may meet the threshold next year, although that remains unconfirmed at this stage.
Freuds also claimed an exemption based on headcount. Despite its headcount exceeding the 250-person threshold in the PRWeek UK Top 150 Consultancies table, that figure relates to PR services across the wider group. The total headcount at Freud Communications is 222.
FleishmanHillard said it is below the headcount threshold, but provided a comment from UK and Middle East chief executive Jim Donaldson: “Equality, and with it pay equity, are intrinsic to our diversity and inclusion commitments at FleishmanHillard in the UK. We have done a full and formal analysis of our gender pay gap since its inception and have shared that with our staff in full transparency. We also conducted a full ethnicity pay gap analysis this year. The findings of both will be shared within the agency in the coming weeks. We regularly conduct analyses of internal and market pay data and engage an external consultant to audit our pay equity. To date, and currently, we fall under the threshold for external publication but in future expect to do so.”
*According to Imperial College London, the median pay gap is the "difference between the midpoints in the ranges of hourly earnings of men and women. It takes all salaries in the sample, lines them up in order from lowest to highest, and picks the middle salary. The mean gender pay gap is the difference between the average hourly earnings of men and women."