News Analysis

Postal service leads the way on equal pay

by Dan Byrne on Nov 28, 2022

From the board level down, the Irish postal service (An Post) has boasted a reformed gender balance – one that it says will shine a torch of progress across a country still struggling to implement diversity measures. 

The postal network remains vital in a country with a low population density outside its few major cities. Now, it has achieved something that many might have even considered possible before; a “negative gender pay gap”.

What’s going on?

The board of An Post – Ireland’s postal service – now stands at 50% men and 50% women, the company’s head of talent and diversity, Heather Lowry, told the Irish Independent

This represents a significant departure from previous years when the governing body was exclusively male. 

Also, female employees of An Post are paid 0.16% more than men on average, according to new research released by the Irish Independent

This is one of the few instances of a negative pay gap in a large company throughout either Ireland or the UK. 

However, men continue to hold the upper hand in An Post regarding median pay, with the male median standing at 3.7% higher than the female equivalent.

What has An Post got to say about it?

The state-owned post service is one of the biggest employers in Ireland. As of March this year, it has over 9,000 staff working for 920 branches. 

“We have to be showing that things are changing, things are moving, people are progressing. That’s really important to us,” Lowry told the Independent. 

“If we have more men at all those higher and medium levels, well, men are going to be on a much higher salary. So [the aim] is getting more women up at the senior management and medium level.”

Is An Post’s board a standout?

In Europe, yes. In Ireland, even more so. 

The latest research indicates that women hold 29% of European board seats. However, when we zoom in on Ireland, that figure is 24%. 

It indicates two things:

  1. Amid the tide of political pressure in Europe to diversity board composition, Ireland still has a lot of work to do. 

An Post stands out as one of the best in an underperforming cohort of businesses.

How easy is it to do what An Post has done?

It’s rarely easy to go against the tide in business, and men have dominated salary and senior-level positions for decades, so this tide shouldn’t be underestimated. 

That said, the combination of circumstances in modern business can quickly cultivate an environment where change is easier. 

These circumstances include: 

  • More diverse pools of candidates for senior positions. 
  • A larger drive for workplace diversity among the general public. 
  • Legislation requiring companies to make more of an effort to employ minorities. 

When we combine these factors with a change in the workplace mindset, we should see scenarios where a move towards diversity is easier than it might have been thirty, twenty, or even ten years ago.

Will An Post always be a standout?

It’s unlikely to stand out for very long if European legislation has its intended impact. 

The final hurdles to long-awaited EU board diversity legislation were passed this month, as the new rules cleared the European Parliament and Council. 

Europe, with Ireland included, now aims to have 40% of non-executive director (NED) positions filled by women by July 2026. They also aim to have 33% of all directorships filled by women by the same deadline. 

Mandatory reporting is intended to guide companies towards these figures. 

While this is noticeably short of the 50/50 split many advocates call for, it would still be an improvement on the current European average. It also stands a better chance of motivating companies to go beyond the required threshold over the next 5-10 years.

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