March 14, 2018

British Library publishes 2017 wage gap data, shows some progress, and plenty of room for improvement


Photo by Steve Cadman, reproduced here under a Creative Commons license.

By April of this year, British companies must submit to the government data and statistics related to the rates of pay for male and female employees. This obligation stems from the Equality Act 2010, which, according to regulations, requires all companies employing more than 250 people to publish a statistics on gender and pay. Information this report must disclose includes: “the mean gender pay gap,” “the median gender pay gap,”  “the mean gender bonus gap,” “the median gender bonus gap,” “the proportions of men and women getting a bonus,” and “the proportion of men and women in each of four pay quartiles.”

In other words, companies must submit a more or less exhaustive rundown of how well they meet the requirements of equal pay for equal work, as set forward in the Equality Act’s Equal Pay Statutory Code of Practice. While the overwhelming majority of employers have yet to publish this information, one notable and venerable institution of British public life has stepped up to the plate: The British Library.

As Lisa Campbell writes at The Bookseller, while most large publishers and booksellers in the UK have not yet submitted this information, the British Library has, revealing a disappointing 6.2% discrepancy between the average wages earned by men and women.

According to a spokesperson from the Library, “As a progressive employer, we have published our results earlier than the deadline of April 2018, in order to demonstrate our commitment to eliminating any gender pay gap. The data provides us with a benchmark for future improvements to ensure that we reduce the pay gap effectively.”

The Library is the caretaker of more than 150 million books (including a copy of every book published in the UK), and a literal treasure trove of historical documents, including the Magna Carta, Leonardo Da Vinci’s notebooks, and two original Gutenberg Bibles. It also publishes a number of books in the UK, such as the delightful Philosophy of Beards, to be released in the US later this year by… ahem… a certain indie publisher.

All great stuff, but unfortunately it doesn’t quite make up for the fact that, while fifty-five percent of the Library’s workforce is female, only thirty-five percent of senior management positions are occupied by women. Or for the wildly disproportionate 25.5% bonus gap, likely related to the discrepancy in management positions.

That said, the situation at the Library is significantly better than elsewhere: according to Campbell, the national mean gap in the UK is 17.4% (by comparison, the National Partnership for Women and Families recently estimated that the pay gap in the United States is a full twenty percent, which is… not good). Also, it’s heartening that the Library has been so forthcoming with its data, and appears to be at the front of the pack in introducing new research and policies aimed at further reducing the discrepancy.

According to that same Library spokesperson:

We have recently introduced a fairer and more attractive pay system and we are working on more progressive policies to increase our flexibility as an employer, supporting smarter working, providing career breaks as well as childcare provision in London and Yorkshire. There is still much to do, but our Leadership Team is fully committed to increasing our diversity as an employer and also by appealing to as broad a range of users as possible.

Some progress has already been made. As Campbell says, the Library increased the number of women in senior roles by 3.6% last year, and is working to develop an “Agile Working Strategy” which will enable more of its staff to work from home, supplementing the expansion of a childcare voucher program.

All positive developments to be sure, not least of which is the Library’s transparency regarding its strategies and progress.



Simon Reichley is the Director of Operations and Rights Manager at Melville House.