WPP's gender pay-gap: figures widen despite small improvements at JWT and Ogilvy

Karen Blackett, WPP UK country manager, said there was still “much to do” in closing the gap

WPP’s gender pay-gap has increased year-on-year, though some of the worst performing agencies from 2017 including JWT and Ogilvy & Mather have managed to close their gaps.

The holding company reports 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.

The median is a typically a more representative figure as the mean can be skewed by a handful of highly paid employees.

For WPP, the median pay-gap stood at 14.9% (up from 14.6% last year) while the mean gap was 23.7% (down from 25.5%).

The UK's national average median gap currently sits at 17.9%, down from 18.4% last year.

Its creative agencies reported some of the worst pay-gap figures in 2017, with JWT London having the biggest gap of 44.7%, followed by AKQA (30.5%), Grey (24.6%) and Ogilvy & Mather (24%).

But some agencies noted improvements in 2018. JWT (which has now been merged with Wunderman) reduced its median gap by 6.4% while AKQA and Ogilvy reduced its by 8.9% and 2.7% respectively.

Grey, however, increased its median pay-gap by 6.7% and saw the average hourly rate between men and women’s pay also increase by 6.9%.

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

Grey’s poor figures are down to the fact that the number of women in leadership positions reduced over the course of the year. In 2017 the male and female representation in the upper pay quartile was 55% men and 45% women. This year those stats swung to just 39% women in the upper pay quartile.

Ogilvy & Mather, meanwhile, managed to increase the number of women in top paying roles senior (up from 37% to 42%) as did AKQA, with women now representing 32% of the top roles compared with just 21% in 2017.

Karen Blackett, WPP UK country manager, said there was still “much to do” when it comes to ensuring women are able to reach leadership positions and, ultimately, improve those stats.

“Globally around half of our senior management are women, but we need to increase the pace of change to improve gender balance at the very highest leadership levels by focusing on programmes that create a stronger female talent pipeline,” she said.

In the report, WPP outlined seven internal initiatives it has launched to improve the ratios, including Stella, a senior leadership and networking group for women, and intensive coaching programme dubbed Walk the Talk.

However, last year WPP’s chief executive Mark Read said it was at risk of getting “initiative-itis” from all the small-scale programmes it was doing, and needed to do more at a group level.

“We do many different things within different WPP companies to tackle gender diversity in the organisation and maybe that's part of the problem,” he said at the time. “We have initiative-itis. Part of what we need to do [at WPP] is to standardise [across agencies] and roll out some bigger programmes.”

WPP's gender pay gap

AgencyPay gap % (2018-19)Pay gap % (2017-18)Pay gap difference
AKQA Limited24.6932.6-7.91
Essence Group Global Ltd26.39N/AN/A
Grey Advertising Ltd27.2120.36.91
Hill + Knowlton Ltd15.3618.4-3.04
Hogarth Worldwide Limited21.3726.7-5.33
J Walter Thompson Ltd34.3738.8-4.43
Kantar Media UK Limited1.133.5-2.37
Kantar UK Limited28.6733.3-4.63
MediaCom Holdings Limited30.8532.2-1.35
MediaCom North Limited19.2523.9-4.65
Mindshare Media UK Limited23.6832.2-8.52
Ogilvy & Mather Group (Holdings) Limited2124.7-3.7
Precise Media Monitoring Limited3.9211.7-7.78
Salmon Limited28.8326.62.23
The Farm Post Production Limited-1.129.8-10.92
Wavemaker Global Limited (formerly MediaEdge)19.2912.36.99
WPP 2005 Limited44.6942.22.49
WPP Brands (UK) Limited (formerly Y&R)24.7918.46.39

Note: Essence Group Global did not report gender pay gap data last year, so its difference is not shown above.

Additional reporting by Sam Bradley.

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