The Gender Pay Gap Bot Is The Fact Check We Need This International Women's Day

Three cheers for the people exposing hypocrisy.

Each year, International Women’s Day marks a chance to celebrate the achievements of women and tackle gender inequality. And naturally, some companies use the day to champion women in their organisation – or so they say.

In 2023, there are hundreds of tweets from companies tweeting about the importance of female empowerment. But do the tweets match up to the actions of these organisations?

Twitter account @PayGapApp doesn’t seem to think so. Their background header reads: “Deeds not words. Stop posting platitudes. Start fixing the problem.” They’re exposing companies who still have a gender pay gap.

If a company tweets about International Women’s Day, they’ll quote tweet with their gender pay gap. Universities, councils and even charity organisations have had their gender pay gaps exposed by the account.

The account was set up by social media manager Francesca Lawson and software developer Ali Fensome in 2021, but they gained a new wave of last year.

The account highlights pay gap data that’s publicly available via the government website.

“If we’re not confronting that data and acting on it, then the problems are just going to persist forever,” Lawson told Vice.

“We created the bot is to make sure that this data isn’t just forgotten about – it’s in the spotlight. By talking about it, we can begin to put pressure on employers to start changing their hiring practices, and paying everyone more.”

Lawson adds that she is determined to use the bot “as a catalyst to keep pressure on companies to act.”

Their system pulls from published government data – accessible to all – to shine a light on the pay gap and make sure people “think a bit more critically” and do not “take these sorts of messages of empowerment and inspiration at face value”.

“We can’t rest on our laurels and just sort of pat ourselves on the back,” Lawson told the PA news agency. “If I’m that inspirational then pay me properly.”

“I think (the Gender Pay Gap Bot has) potentially tapped into something. This frustration is not unique to me,” she says.

“People are getting wise to the kind of corporate virtue signalling and having the wool pulled over their eyes a bit in terms of how businesses talk about themselves versus how they actually act the other 364 days of the year.”

The Gender Pay Gap Bot plucks statistics from the designated service on the official website, through which UK companies with more than 250 employees are required to publish their payroll data, and takes a comparison of men’s and women’s average pay across the organisation.

The bot uses the median hourly pay because “very high or low pay can distort the mean – the median is considered to show the more ‘typical’ situation,” it reads in a pinned tweet.

Some of the companies the bot has already called out in 2023 for their most recently available pay gap data include St Mary’s University, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, and airline Emirates.

Many are also found to have equal pay for men and women, like Barnsley Council and Derby City Council in 2023.

The creators behind the account have included another aspect in this year’s batch of automated tweets.

To make it “a little less embarrassing” and give companies “positive PR,” the bot now adds the percentage points decrease in the gap compared with last year.

“We’ve had some really good examples already,” Lawson said. “Like Hastings Borough Council, they’ve reported no gender pay gap this year.

“And they reported a 1.4% pay gap favouring men last year. So (that is) next to their tweet this year.

It seems like most people on Twitter think they’re doing the Lord’s work.

Though the account is mainly exposing companies for still having a gender pay gap, they’re also highlighting the organisations who pay men and women equally such as Registers of Scotland and Together Trust.

Other companies like London Fire Brigade, Wigan Council, Helen and Douglas House, JoJo Maman Bebe and Girlguiding pay women more than men. So it’s not all bad news.

What do you think of the Gender Pay Gap Bot?