M&S hails gender balance despite growing pay gap

Marks & Spencer has worked hard to “level the playing field between men and women”, an executive has said, despite its widening gender pay gap.

As first revealed by this publication, this has grown by a quarter over the last three years.

Speaking to IGD, the retailer’s international director Paul Friston praised its work on inequalities and “balanced” leadership.

“At Marks & Spencer, we’ve nearly reached our target of 50 per cent women at leadership level,” he said.

READ MORE: Ex-M&S boss Stuart Rose hits back at ‘stupid’ PM

“Having balanced teams brings diversity of thought and is proven to be good for business.”

However, of the supermarket’s top leadership team, just five of the 16 members are female.

Just one woman sits on the executive committee: Katie Bickerstaffe, who shares the role of Chief Operating Officer with Stuart Machin.

The Grocery Gazette revealed in July that Marks & Spencer’s median pay gap in 2020 was 4.1 per cent, up 0.8 per cent since 2017.

This was despite head of talent Simmone Haywood pledging “meaningful” action to tackle gender inequality three years ago.

Initiatives included coaching “mid-career women” for senior roles and mentorship through Marks & Spencer’s Gender Equality Network – both mentioned by Friston in his IGD interview.

However, a Marks & Spencer spokesperson claimed the statistics showing the pay gap were an “anomaly”.

“As a retailer with over 70 per cent of our colleagues female, we’re committed to being a more inclusive business where everyone feels they can belong,” they said. 

“Our 2017 figures represent an anomaly within our reporting, as they reflect a period when we made changes to our pay and pensions in April 2017.

“This resulted in additional one-off payments for some colleagues at the same time as the gender pay gap reporting period.”

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