It’s International Women’s Day 2023 and women worldwide still earn an average of 77 cents for every dollar men make. The United Nations predicts it will take 257 years at the current rate of progress to close the gender pay gap. This is a deeply rooted societal issue with many organizations that claim to lift women up also guilty of paying them less.
These companies have long gotten away with posting a photo of a smiling woman or an inspirational quote about girl power on IWD to appear gender equitable. This was until last year when Francesca Lawson decided it was well past time they were exposed. Lawson, a freelance copywriter and social media manager, co-created the Gender Pay Gap Bot with her partner, Ali Fensome, a software consultant.
The Twitter bot uses data publicly available through the UK government’s gender pay gap service. It analyzes the pay gap of organizations with at least 250 employees working in the UK. They represent a variety of sectors including education, government, healthcare and sports. Since 2017, organizations of this size have been required to submit their gender pay gap annually.
Lawson and Fensome created the bot after seeing companies post about empowerment or use IWD as an excuse for a sale without following through internally. “What the gender pay gap data shows is that behind employers’ supportive words, all-women photoshoots, and inspirational quotes, there’s still a lot of work to do,” Lawson, also the creative strategist behind the bot, tells Engadget. The pair also realized many people weren’t aware this information was available for public knowledge.
The Gender Pay Gap Bot aptly aligns with this year’s IWD theme ‘DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality’ in it’s quest for pay equity. As the UN states, “the digital age represents an unprecedented opportunity to eliminate all forms of disparity and inequality.”
The bot works in three steps. It searches Twitter for to match companies’ accounts with their government profile then scans for keywords related to International Women’s Day. Once it matches a company with a relevant post, it’s time to publish their gender pay gap.
The Gender Pay Gap Bot automatically quote tweets the organization’s initial post to its account. It typically uses modifications of the same two sentences: “In this organisation, women’s median hourly pay is X% lower/higher than men’s. The pay gap is X percentage points smaller/wider than the previous year. The bot has nearly 250K followers and usually tweets multiple times per minute.”
The results are disheartening but not surprising. Most companies’ pay gaps reflects the global trend of women making less than men.
In this organisation, women’s median hourly pay is 38.7% lower than men’s. The pay gap is 37.3 percentage points wider than the previous year. https://t.co/TTn1ab3P9F
— Gender Pay Gap Bot (@PayGapApp) March 8, 2023
A nominal number of tweets show cases in which women are paid more than men. Rare tweets also highlight companies who are doing it right: Equal pay for everyone.
However, for most organizations, it’s a reminder they need to make serious changes. But, today, instead of taking accountability, some of them are choosing to run and hide. After the bot’s call out, a few companies have deleted their initial tweet. Turns out you can be embarrassed into doing something, maybe even also fairly paying your workers.
Beyond shamefully deleting a tweet, Lawson hopes the Gender Pay Gap Bot gets organizations thinking about and taking action towards gender equity. “By putting the data back in the spotlight, I’d hoped to inspire companies to approach their International Women’s Day activities differently this year — the overwhelmingly positive response we’ve had shows that women are tired of being ‘celebrated’ and labelled ‘inspirational’ for one day a year while experiencing discrimination and inequality on the other 364,” Lawson says. “They want honesty, and accountability — not hollow marketing gestures.”