Twitter bot shows how hypocritical companies celebrate International Women’s Day – and publishes their gender pay gaps
Many companies congratulated on International Women’s Day on social media. A Twitter account responded by publishing the gender pay gap among employees at those companies.
International Women’s Day took place on Monday – and numerous companies celebrated it with nice congratulations and posts on social media. The Twitter account @PayGapApp has set itself the task of exposing those companies and publishing the gender pay gap among their own employees – i.e. showing how big the wage gap between men and women is.
Francesca Lawson and Ali Fensome and the bot they created are behind the account. The couple created the account last year to use UK government data on corporate gender pay gaps to criticize companies that tweet about International Women’s Day . Fensome, a software engineer, programmed the account as a bot and wrote code that causes it to perform the function stated in its Twitter bio: “Employers, if you tweet about International Women’s Day, I will retweet your gender pay gap,” warns he.
Companies obliged to publish the Gender Pay Gap
On Tuesday alone, the bot posted hundreds of such tweets and went viral. Many social media users praised the action. More than 170,000 people are already following the account (as of March 9, 2022). For Lawson, the account’s popularity reflects a growing interest in transparency from companies that speak out against injustice but arguably perpetuate it within their own ranks.
Since 2017, companies with more than 250 employees in the UK have been required to submit gender pay gap reports to the UK government. According to the Office for National Statistics, the average gender pay gap in the UK in 2020 was 15.5 per cent – meaning women earned just 85 per cent of what their male counterparts were paid.
Women earn almost 70 percent less at Ryanair
Low-cost airline Ryanair seems to have one of the most striking pay gaps: “In this company, the average hourly wage for women is 68.6 percent less than that for men,” tweeted the Gender Pay Gap Bot. Ryanair had posted a homemade film poster to mark International Women’s Day, which shows a selection of their female employees, on which they are referred to as “The Flight Squad”.
In a statement, a Ryanair spokesman attributed the pay gap to the fact that the majority of UK pilots are men, noting that female pilots are underrepresented across the industry. (The dataset used by the bot is a measure of all UK jobs, not the difference in pay between men and women for the same job).
Some companies are said to have blocked the bot
For Lawson, those systemic inequalities underpin the existence of @PayGapApp and other initiatives. “We wanted to use this data to bring the issue back into the spotlight, to make people aware of the problems that still exist and to start conversations about how to solve them,” she told the Washington Post.
Lawson and Fensome said some accounts blocked @PayGapApp in response to the tweets. Others responded to the tweets with more context on their gender pay gap, noting that women tend to hold lower-paying positions in general.
“In an ideal world, we wouldn’t need International Women’s Day”
Lawson and Fensome wish the UK government would collect more data on the gender pay gap – including on race, sexual orientation, disability and age – to get a more complete picture of how the pay gap varies differently for women of different backgrounds expresses. That way, Lawson says they could organize a similar campaign for Black History Month, for example.
In the meantime, the couple plans to keep developing @PayGapApp until there is no need for it anymore.
“In an ideal world, we wouldn’t need International Women’s Day because then we would have full gender parity,” Lawson said.
swell: The Washington Post, TheTimes