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WPP reports 14.6% gender pay gap: JWT, AKQA and Grey show biggest discrepancies


By Jennifer Faull, Deputy Editor

March 1, 2018 | 5 min read

WPP has published its gender pay report, revealing a gap of 14.6% across all the agencies that qualified for the study (those with over 250 staff). Among the worst agencies for pay discrepancies between men and women were JWT, AKQA and Grey.



The holding company reported two sets of numbers for 18 agency groups. A figure for the median pay gap, defined as the difference between the midpoints in the ranges of men’s and women’s pay, and the mean pay gap which is the difference in the average hourly rate pay.

For WPP as a whole the median pay gap stood at at 14.6% while the mean gap was 25.5%.

The UK's national average median gap currently sits at 18.4%.

WPP has over 14,000 employees and a gender-balanced workforce in the UK with 51% men and 49% women. But it said there are fewer women in senior executive roles, where pay is highest, which has resulted in its gender pay gap.

In the lower pay quartile (ie the most junior roles) women make up 55% of the workforce, compared to the highest pay quartile where they represent just 38%.

This is at the crux of the issue for many of the poorest performing agencies in the group when it comes to the pay gaps.

Its creative agencies reported some of the worst figures. JWT London had the biggest gap of 44.7%, followed by AKQA (30.5%), Grey (24.6%) and Ogilvy and Mather (24%). Click the table below to enlarge.


At JWT London there was a median pay gap of 44.7% and a mean gap of 38.8%. Unsurprisingly, men made up 71% of the upper pay quartile while women made up the majority (65%) of those in the lowest pay quartile.

AKQA meanwhile had a median pay gap of 30.5% and a mean gap of 32.6%. Here, women represented just 21% of the top paying roles in the agency.

However, Grey had a 24.6% median pay gap and a 20.3% mean pay gap. This is despite the male and female representation being fairly balanced in the upper pay quartile (55% men and 45% women).

Ogilvy & Mather had a 24% median pay gap and a 24.7% mean gap in the group, with women making up just 37% of the top-paying roles.

JWT London chief executive James Whitehead said the numbers from his agency were “obviously disappointing”.

“Where we’ve given real focus with initiatives over the past 18 months, we’ve seen real change in attracting great young female talent into the agency,” he said, referring to the likes of its female-focused consultancy which launched last year.

“Now we need to build on what we have started with further actions to make the same degree of change at the more senior levels. We understand it won’t be corrected overnight, but we will be constantly measuring our progress against these activities and will be held accountable by our employees every step of the way.”

Meanwhile, AKQA said it had managed to reduce its median pay gap by over 12% in last 10 months through a series of initiatives aimed at increasing parity at the most senior levels, but admitted more had to be done.

“We understand there’s still a lot more to learn and do, and we remain focused on closing the gender pay gap,” said managing director Sam Kelly.

“We are committed to bringing more women into senior leadership positions through training, promotions and recruitment.”

WPP's major media agencies reported slightly better figures. MediaCom had an 11% median pay gap (with women making up 41% of the top paying roles) while Maxus had a 9.7% median gap though women made up just 33% of the top pay quartile.

Overall, WPP’s newly instated UK manager Karen Blackett said the group was “placing an even greater emphasis on the development of female leaders, which includes actively promoting best practice in recruitment, training, mentoring, parental leave and flexible working within our companies”.

“WPP does not struggle to attract female talent. We have a gender-balanced workforce and all our companies work hard to ensure everyone is treated equally and has the same opportunities to develop in their career,” she said.

Earlier today WPP released its 2017 financials, which showed a 0.9% fall in net sales and a 0.3% drop in annual revenues. In response, chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell described 2017 as "not a pretty year" for the company.


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