In 2021 the campaign theme for International Women’s Day is ‘choose to challenge’, as a challenged world is an alert world and change comes from challenge.

As Director of HR at Global Witness, the challenge I’ve chosen to address is the UK Government’s decision to postpone the gender pay gap reporting in 2021 for 6 months.

Mandatory gender pay gap reporting was first introduced in the UK in 2018.  This required UK businesses with more than 250 employees to publish the median average pay of their male and female staff.

In 2020, due to the COVID pandemic, the UK government decided to postpone the requirement for organisations to publish their gender pay gap.  Of all the compulsory reporting that businesses in the UK must do, the gender pay gap was the only one that was suspended, sending an unfortunate message that equality is nice, but not essential.

Prior to COVID, the UK was making slow but steady progress towards reducing the gender pay gap. But the pandemic has disproportionately impacted women in work. A study by The Fawcett Society, published in November 2020, found that 35% of working mothers said they had lost work or hours due to a lack of childcare during the pandemic. Separately, a report by McKinsey found that women’s jobs are more vulnerable to the pandemic than men’s, in part because the burden of unpaid care is more likely to be carried by women and also because they are overly represented in industries that are expected to decline significantly in the current economic climate, for example hospitality and retail.

At a time when data on the gender pay gap is needed more than ever, the reporting deadline has been moved to October instead of April. While this is preferable to cancelling the requirement altogether (as had been rumoured) it is a lost opportunity for organisations to look at their data on the current gap in pay between women and men, and make decisions about internal investment, growth and resilience accordingly.  Job losses in the UK are inevitable when the government furlough schemes comes to an end and gaining early insight could result in some organisations taking steps to ensure that further planned job losses don’t disproportionately impact women.   

This delay in reporting will contribute to slowing down or reversing the gender equality progress that has been made.

Global Witness is not required to report our gender pay gap (we don’t have 250 employees) – but this year we feel it is important to do so, and at the time that it would normally be reported.  We would ask other organisations within our sector and more broadly to do the same.  Data is an important part of understanding what is happening to women at work.  If we understand what is happening we can have the right conversations and make change a reality, not just a corporate slogan.


In our UK office, 60% of our colleagues identify as female.  Our overall gender pay gap mean average is 9.53% (nationally the mean average is 17.3%) and our median average is 7.88% (nationally the median pay gap is 17.10%).


In our US office, 83% of our colleagues identify as female. Our overall gender pay gap mean average is 11.23% and our median average is 0.6%.

It is clear that whilst moving in the right direction, our gender pay gap is not where we want it to be yet. We are committed to keep working with our staff and partners to narrow the gap across our organisation and keep improving our retention and recruitment policies to support women working at Global Witness.