Eight ways to understand your organisation's gender pay gap

Key questions for employers to ask that will help you to identify different potential causes of your gender pay gap.

Published 17 April 2020

From: Government Equalities Office

Is there a gender imbalance in your promotions?

To avoid gender imbalances higher up in your organisation, men and women need to apply for promotion in proportions that match the composition of men and women at grades below. For example, in a particular grade you might have 60% women and 40% men. In that case, the pool of candidates who apply for promotion from that grade to a more senior grade should also be 60% women and 40% men. If, for example, only 20% of the applicants were women, the gender imbalance would be more likely to worsen at the higher grade, meaning fewer women in senior roles and a bigger gender pay gap.

Identifying gender imbalances within your promotion process

To identify whether this is an issue in your organisation, look at the proportion of women from a given grade or role applying for promotions, making it through to any assessment stage or shortlist, and being selected for promotion. Is this proportion lower than you would expect, given the proportion of women at that grade or in that role?

If you have internal recruitment processes (such as those where employees apply to open vacancies), look at these processes separately to see if there are any imbalances as candidates progress through the stages.

Example of gender imbalance in the promotion process, by stage

Applicant pool

50% of the applicant pool are women 50% of the applicant pool are men


40% of the applicants are women 60% of the applicants are men


30% of the assessment are women 70% of the assessment are men


25% of the selected are women 75% of the selected are men

If you find a gender imbalance in your promotion process:
  • Examine your promotion processes to establish at what stage women are falling out

  • Are women not applying for promotion at all? If so, why? Can you improve this, for example by offering flexible working at higher grades?

  • Are women not making it through short-listing processes or assessment rounds? If so, why? Are your promotion processes clear and transparent so that bias cannot creep in and affect them? Are senior staff and hiring managers held accountable for hiring decisions by someone whose responsibility it is to monitor equality and diversity, such as a diversity officer, as well as by your leadership team?