The news comes after a Johnston Press report revealed a mean gender pay gap of 15.1 per cent, as well as more males than females in management roles and a predominantly male Senior Management Team.
Johnston Press, which owns over 180 titles around the UK including the Sunderland Echo, Shields Gazette and Hartlepool Mail in the North East, national newspapers The i and The Scotsman, and the Yorkshire Post, revealed its Gender Pay Gap Report 2017 this week as part of the Government’s plan to gather gender pay data from businesses with 250 or more employees.
In a statement to the company Mr Highfield expressed his concerns over the report’s findings, saying: “we don’t have the balance right”.
Mr Highfield and the Board are now addressing the gender imbalances the report has highlighted by setting up a Gender Pay Review Group to tackle the pay discrepancies.
Headed up by Cathy Southgate, Johnston Press Group Financial Controller (with oversight from Chair of the Board, Camilla Rhodes) the Gender Pay Review Group will aim to reduce the gender pay gap within five years by finding solutions to the three main areas of concern – tackling the mean gender pay gap and having more women in management and Senior Management Team roles.
Despite no pay inequality issues, the report highlighted how the difference in pay by gender is largely driven by the proportion of males to females in more senior positions – an issue that Highfield and the Board have said will be reduced every year.
The company has also given itself a self imposed five-year deadline to achieve a 50/50 gender balance in the Senior Leadership Team. Currently there are 59 male members of the Senior Leadership Team, in comparison to 23 females which has influenced the gender pay gap in real terms. The publisher has also said it will ensure a diversity in candidates for all Senior Leadership Team roles.
Johnston Press has also said its new Gender Pay Review Group will work alongside Human Resources to target development plans for all staff, regardless of gender.
In a statement, Mr Highfield said: “A healthy business has a diverse talent pool at every level. This report has shown that we don’t have the balance right and has identified where we have some specific issues. While such issues are not unique to Johnston Press, we must do our utmost to ensure equality of opportunity for all staff.
Mr Highfield added: “Over the coming months, the Gender Pay Review Group will analyse the issues fully and identify the changes this company needs to make to address them. This will be an inclusive process and the Review Group will aim to consult widely with staff. We will aim to update you regularly on progress and how you can get involved.”