shifting social landscape has increasingly pushed diversity and inclusion to the forefront of workplace discussions. Now, both employees and executives alike are acknowledging mistreatment and discrimination within professional settings, and companies are placing greater emphasis on transparency in culture, values and pay.
For equality activist Dianne Greyson, this evolution presents a window for meaningful legislative and cultural change. Greyson is the founder of the Ethnicity Pay Gap Campaign, a UK-based cause, established in 2018. Her mission is twofold: raise awareness of the wage disparity between ethnic minorities and their white colleagues, and ultimately secure mandatory ethnicity pay-gap reporting at a governmental level.
Although corporate monitoring of the gender pay gap became mandatory in the UK in 2017, the same is not expected of employers regarding the ethnicity pay gap. The issue of universal mandatory pay gap reporting was debated in Parliament in 2021, but was voted down despite increasing popular support.
As an independent campaigner, Greyson has curated a network of allies also interested in wage parity across several industries to continue her fight. With the support of the British trade union Unison and UK equality charities, she produced the first report on the effects of the ethnicity pay gap on black women in 2022.
“When the ethnicity pay gap is reported, it’s so broad, you can’t find any granular information on it,” Greyson told the BBC. “If I reflect backwards on my career, I think there would be some occasions where it would be the case that I was being paid differently to my colleagues for the same job. As a black woman, I wanted to find out how it affected us and find solutions to the situations we found ourselves in.”
Greyson marks 8 January as the annual Ethnicity Pay Gap Day, and will continue the work into the year with the first Ethnicity Pay Gap Summit in London on 9 February, where she’ll bring together leaders to help businesses understand the issue – and how to tackle it. Greyson explains the success of her campaign, the importance of data and why partnerships are key to progress.
The BBC’s series features interviews with C-suite leaders making innovative, data-driven decisions helping shape the future of business – and paving the path for other leaders to thrive. Read more conversations here.
How did you manage to amplify your message nationwide as an independent campaigner?
I recognised quite early on in my campaign that, to be heard, I needed to collaborate with others and establish myself as a source of specialist knowledge. During the initial years, I reached out to those already working on the better-known gender pay gap, like the Fawcett Society and the Equality Trust. Within these organisations, I was able to establish myself as a writer and public speaker with a technical understanding of the issue.
Essentially, I’ve become the go-to person during roundtable discussions concerning the ethnicity pay gap, which means I’m able to advocate for the expansion of the campaign with more ease. In 2021, I was able to launch the now-annual Ethnicity Pay Gap Day, which takes place on 8 January. The point of this awareness day is to galvanise support, which only grows as I take up more space and the support network expands.
How do you convince organisations to collaborate with you?
It’s all about finding common ground. My campaign picked up the pace once I aligned myself with organisations that were already discussing ways to fix the gender pay gap.
There’s no doubt that their data would have exposed an ethnicity pay gap – I was the person who brought this new dimension to their attention and helped them articulate it. Even though they weren’t magnifying the ethnicity pay gap at the time, they were able to recognise that there was a separate but related issue.
Once you find this common ground, building networks is a no-brainer.
At the UN Women UK Awards in November 2023, Greyson won Outstanding Grassroots Campaigner for her work on Ethnicity Pay Gap Day (Credit: Courtesy of Dianne Greyson)
What are the benefits of collaboration?
Part of the problem is that people are having conversations in isolation. I always encourage leaders to reach out to others who already report on their pay gaps – not to copy exactly what they’ve done, but to learn about different processes and begin thinking about how they’re going to start their own reporting.
That’s why I’m hosting the first Ethnicity Pay Gap summit in February 2024, to try to foster this collaboration. By physically bringing people together, you’re more likely to have constructive conversations built from diverse perspectives. I want companies and individuals who are interested in this issue to be in one room talking about it, learning from each other, and proposing solutions.
In an era of escalating social tensions regarding race and class, how do you get hostile parties to take your campaign seriously?
Evidence. You can’t run a campaign like this without the evidence to back it up.
When you’re dealing with a situation that has social implications like the ethnicity pay gap, people who feel threatened might want to push back. But there’s so muchresearch and data out there that proves the pay gap exists. As changemakers, the goal is to articulate these numbers in a way that’s easy to understand, so much so that it’s just nonsensical to push back.
And it’s so fundamentally important to remember that there are people behind those numbers. Research shows that the victims of the ethnicity pay gap experience a decline in their personal and professional development, and sometimes their physical and mental health. The most effective way of illustrating the severity of the problem is to humanise those behind the evidence, and properly express the real-life consequences of the pay gap.
THE ETHNICITY PAY GAP BY THE NUMBERS
- £3.2bn ($4.06bn): The estimated extent of the ethnicity pay gap in the UK alone (Resolution Foundation)
- 5.6%: How much more UK white workers earn on average than their black counterparts (ONS)
- £24bn ($30.4bn): The potential UK economic boost from BAME pay equity (gov.uk)
A popular parliamentary petition brought the issue to the UK legislature, but mandatory pay gap reporting was voted down. How do you move forward from adversity and decisions against your cause?
No campaign can survive unless you’re willing to consistently fight for it. At the moment, a lot of people aren’t passionate about this issue, and that means occasionally facing setbacks or hostility. But that’s OK, because I’ve got people in my corner who share my genuine desire to fix the issue. I’m obviously quite annoyed by the decision to vote the issue down, but it certainly won’t stop me from continuing my campaign.
Change doesn’t happen without effort. The progress that’s been made so far with the ethnicity pay gap … I’ve made it happen, quite frankly. That’s not me blowing my own trumpet! But doing something like this, you’ve got to have a belief and passion, and you have to be consistent. In a fair world, I wouldn’t have to do this campaigning. But if not me, then who?
What can other leaders learn from your leadership style and the success of your campaign?
Nothing happens overnight. When you’re taking on a system, you need to be tenacious – you can’t allow yourself to be pushed in another direction by others because it suits their purpose. You have to stay focused on what you believe in and the goals that you’ve set for yourself.
One thing I learned quite early in this process is that you can’t be afraid to reach out to people who you think are out of the league. Especially within larger organisations, there’s bound to be at least one individual who shares your lived experience or your passion for an issue. If you don’t build upon these potential relationships, it might be the difference between you succeeding and failing.
Link to the BBC Worklife article