On International Women’s Day 2022, an illustrated image of a robot in a sunhat took companies, schools and nonprofits by surprise as the titled “Gender Pay Gap Bot” called out testimonials, posts and hashtags in support of the global day on Twitter with factual data on the organization’s gender pay disparities.
For the Gender Pay Gap Bot’s second year on the platform, co-creator Francesca Lawson hopes the bot’s services will underscore positive change over the course of the last year, in addition to the viral crusade she and partner Ali Fensome embarked on a year prior.
“It's not about blocking companies from communicating on gender equality issues on International Women's Day. It's to be upfront and honest about what your problems are, what your policies are, what you're doing,” Lawson said. “A lot of the way that our story has been told is very much [that] we're calling companies out, we're shaming them — and it's nice to recognize that highlighting a pay gap, highlighting this data is actually really beneficial when there's either no pay gap or a really small gap as well.”
The account, @PayGapApp, pulls data from the U.K. government’s publicly available data of reported information comparing men and women’s average pay for companies with 250 or more employees. Lawson and Fensome recognized the importance of the data and chose Twitter as a medium to bring the information to the public because “that’s where people are.”
Lawson feared Twitter’s recent technical issues would affect the Gender Pay Gap Bot’s performance, specifically on IWD this year. She was also conscious of the fact that if they called out companies of importance to application owner Elon Musk, such as Tesla or Twitter itself, the bot could be kicked off the app in retaliation.
While the future of Twitter is still uncertain, Lawson doesn’t feel the account would be as successful on another platform.
“We've not formulated an emergency exit plan and, as of yet, I think the challenge is that most of the other social platforms don't support automation in the same way that Twitter does, so it's difficult working out what would be our next move,” Lawson said. “We'll keep running until either we get kicked off Twitter or until all of the companies start being honest and start making progress.”
The account's tagline, “Deeds, not words. Stop posting platitudes. Start fixing the problem,” defines the bot’s mission, bringing to light where companies truly stand on pay equity even as their public-facing posts may claim to support otherwise.
Lawson, who previously worked for companies and agencies on client work as a social media manager, felt that organizations choosing to post for women- or minority-based holidays and events did so with “reasonably inoffensive, but utterly meaningless gestures.”
Now self-employed, she feels she has the freedom to speak her mind on gender transparency and accountability while also acknowledging strides being made since the bot’s origination.
Adjustments to the bot’s posts this year, with the comparison of yearly data available, have garnered the ability to show progress in how a company’s gap has widened or narrowed. Twitter users can also request a specific company’s data by tagging @PayGapApp.
Hello hello #IWD2023 is nearly here, and so are companies' cut-and-paste platitudes. And once again we're bringing you the data to see whose support for #InternationalWomensDay is genuine, and who's still got work to do.— Gender Pay Gap Bot (@PayGapApp) March 6, 2023
Here's a reminder of how it works ⬇️ (1/8)
While the bot’s efforts have highlighted the closing pay gaps at many companies, it has continued to show areas in need of improvement, resulting in organizations deleting their original posts quote-tweeted by the account for calling out large disparities in pay among workers. In light of the virality the Gender Pay Gap Bot received last year when it was new to the scene, Lawson noted a decrease in viewership this year, mainly due to the influx of tweets the account is constantly generating.
“We have had fewer impressions this year than last year, but I think that there is no longer the shock factor,” Lawson said. “We exposed a lot of the pay gaps last year and now it's almost expected that companies are going to try and pull the wool over our eyes, and we're going to be back with the facts.”
In contrast to organizations that attempt to avoid being quoted by the bot, some companies have reached out and thanked the account for putting their improvements or continued equity standards at the forefront for users to see.
In this organisation, men's and women's median hourly pay is equal. The pay gap is the same as the previous year. https://t.co/I5pXSI5T4o— Gender Pay Gap Bot (@PayGapApp) March 9, 2023
Known for their IWD callouts, the account stays active year-round to prevent anyone from “escaping scrutiny,” even if they chose not to post exactly on March 8, Lawson said.
She noted that she and Fensome will continue social awareness throughout the year for events such as Pride. The duo is aware of more equity data publicly available, such as ethnicity and disability gaps, they hope to be able to break into and analyze in future installments.
While this level of public data is currently only available in certain countries, not yet in the U.S., Lawson hopes other international governments will see the purpose and need for equity transparency in the workplace and can create iterations of the bot in those regions to further accountability.
This years International Women’s Day theme is #EmbraceEquity, which aims to spark a conversation about why equal opportunities aren’t enough, underscoring true inclusion and equitable action, according to the campaign’s official website.
In PR, the gap for women has slowed in year-over-year compensation, according to a 2023 survey by PRWeek and PR Talent. The survey found that women’s pay increased 7.8% year over year in 2023, compared to 11.8% in 2022, while men made 20.9% more than women this year, compared to 24.5% more last year.
Overall, the survey found the pay gap is shrinking, but at a slow rate.