Fensome, a software program developer, constructed the account as a bot, writing code that leads it to carry out the operate listed in its Twitter bio: “Employers, if you tweet about International Women’s Day, I’ll retweet your gender pay gap,” it warns.
By the top of the day on Tuesday, @PayGapApp had gone viral, with greater than 120,000 followers. It had additionally despatched out a whole bunch of tweets calling out companies with information about their hourly median gender pay gaps.
To Lawson, the account’s sudden recognition displays customers’ rising demand for transparency from companies who publicly marketing campaign towards inequities however could perpetuate them inside their very own workplaces.
“You can’t say that you’re doing really well for equality if you’ve not got the numbers behind you to support it,” she added. “We don’t want to see nice headshots of your female employees. We don’t want to see panel discussions that you’re running. We want you to tell us how you’ve identified your problems, what you’re doing to fix them, and if you have something to shout about, if you’re doing really well — well, show us the data.”
Since 2017, the U.Ok. authorities has required companies with greater than 250 staff to submit annual reviews on their gender pay gaps primarily based on payroll information. In 2020, the U.Ok.’s gender pay gap amongst all hourly staff was 15.5 %, in line with the Office for National Statistics — in different phrases, ladies earned about 85 % of what males did on common. (Companies within the U.Ok. are not required by legislation to report ethnicity pay gaps.)
In the United States in 2020, ladies on common earned 83 % of what males earned, in line with the American Association of University Women. The disparities are starker alongside racial traces, with Black ladies being paid 64 % of what White, non-Hispanic males did in 2020 and Latinas being paid 57 % of what White males made that yr, in line with AAUW. Native American ladies sometimes earn solely 60 % of what White males earn, in line with the National Women’s Law Center, which additionally notes that the wage gap sometimes stands at 85 % for Asian American and Pacific Islander ladies.
For many companies tweeting about International Women’s Day, a quote retweet from @PayGapApp hasn’t been fascinating. The bot’s dispassionate preprogrammed tweets usually spotlight the distinction between companies’ splashy graphics and messages of assist for his or her ladies staff and the realities of how a lot these ladies are underpaid.
The low-cost airline firm Ryanair appeared to have one of many worst pay gaps the bot referred to as out as of press time.
“In this organisation, women’s median hourly pay is 68.6% lower than men’s,” the bot tweeted over a pretend film poster graphic the airline firm created, that includes a choice of its ladies staff underneath a banner calling them “the Flight Squad.”
In a press release, a spokesperson for Ryanair attributed the corporate’s pay gap to the truth that a majority of its U.Ok. pilots are males, noting that ladies have been traditionally underrepresented as pilots all through all the trade. (The nationwide information set utilized by the bot is a measure throughout all jobs within the U.Ok., not of the distinction in pay between women and men for doing the identical job.)
To Lawson, these sorts of systemic disparities are all of the extra cause for @PayGapApp and comparable initiatives to exist.
“We wanted to use this data to put it back in the spotlight in order to make people aware of the kind of challenges still going on and start conversations about trying to fix them,” she stated.
Some accounts blocked @PayGapApp in response to the tweets, Lawson and Fensome stated. Others responded to the tweets with extra context on their gender pay gaps, noting that ladies make up the vast majority of staff in lower-paid roles. For some employers, the account highlighted the place ladies’s median hourly pay is increased than males’s or equal to males’s.
Governments and employers can scale back the gender pay gap, in line with a 2020 report by the National Women’s Law Center, by combating gender bias, elevating the minimal wage, creating alternatives for girls to advance inside organizations, offering youngster care and household and medical depart, and supporting pay transparency and unionization amongst staff.
Lawson, a contract copywriter and social media supervisor, got here up with the thought final yr to make the federal government information publicly accessible by means of a Twitter account after seeing companies “filling up social feeds and inboxes talking about events that they’re running” for International Women’s Day, she stated.
“I had just started to feel really disheartened because a lot of it is … not backed up with any long-term action to improve gender equality,” she added.
When she introduced the thought to Fensome on March 6 final yr — two days earlier than International Women’s Day — he set to work on constructing the bot, he stated.
Fensome added that he was additionally glad to have the possibility to make extra of the general public conscious of the federal government information set highlighting the gender pay gap: “I was a bit shocked about how few people actually knew about this amazing data.”
What adopted have been “about two days of frantic coding, data analysis, bug fixing, sort of ad hoc testing and late nights,” Fensome stated.
His code leads the bot to scan Twitter accounts for a wide range of key phrases and hashtags linked to International Women’s Day earlier than matching the accounts to information from the federal government database. Then it writes a quote retweet of the corporate’s submit with information on its gender pay gap.
At 6 a.m. on final yr’s International Women’s Day, the couple launched the bot on Fensome’s laptop computer. That meant they may solely depart it operating for the day, as a result of Fensome wanted to finally resume utilizing his laptop, he stated. But this yr, it’s operating on Amazon Web Services, he added. Given their focus on International Women’s Day, the couple plan to permit the account to proceed to run by means of the top of the week. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)
This yr, Madeline Odent, a 30-year-old resident of Oxford, England, began a viral Twitter thread cataloguing companies that deleted tweets and locked their accounts after @PayGapApp quote-tweeted them. She stated she doesn’t blame social media managers operating the accounts for deleting the tweets, “just the bigwigs who tell them to avoid criticism/negative press at all costs,” she advised The Washington Post in a Twitter message.
Lawson and Fensome agreed. They additionally stated they want to see the U.Ok. authorities acquire extra information on the gender pay gap — together with on race, sexual orientation, incapacity and age — to color a fuller image of how pay gaps have an effect on ladies in a different way primarily based on these classes. Doing so would permit them to run the same marketing campaign for Black History Month, for instance, Lawson stated.
In the meantime, the couple plans to proceed iterating on @PayGapApp till there’s no want for it.
“In an ideal world, we wouldn’t need an International Women’s Day, because we’d have total gender parity,” Lawson stated.
But for now, they’re already planning 2023’s spherical of company roastings.
“We have got some ideas for things to do next year,” Fensome stated, “but we’ve got to keep some of it under wraps.”