These tweeks took it from “spam-bot” to “valuable resource” and to say it was welcomed would be modest. Mid-morning retweets from Guardian journalist Carole Cadwalladr and writer Caitlin Moran helped to bolster momentum, and by the end of the day over 200,000 followers were eagerly awaiting which company would be next.
Yet, for companies so eager to show their commitment to female empowerment, the sharing of this publicly available information wasn’t always gladly received.
“We’ve had a lot of people attempting to circumvent the bot by deleting and reposting, we’ve had companies block us, we’ve had people block their accounts,” said Lawson, though since the company’s Twitter handle remains in the retweeted url, there really was little hiding.
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But to be vindictive or to catch people out wasn’t their intention. “We’re literally just stating the facts, you go away and make your own decisions about what that means,” she continues.
“I think people in companies being called out literally have never seen their own gender pay gap,” adds Fensome. “I get the sense that most people don’t even know the data exists.”
Despite being overwhelmed by positive responses to the bot, Lawson was disappointed by how few companies have owned up to their figures and committed to doing better, which is the kind of response the couple would have liked to see.
“More often it’s explaining why their gender pay gap is acceptable, or why they’ve been hard-done by the furlough scheme,” explains Fensome.
Young’s Pubs, where “women’s median hourly pay is 73.2 per cent lower than mens” according to Gender Pay Gap Bot’s use of government data, wanted it on the record that due to the furlough scheme brought in over the pandemic, its gender pay gap was “significantly distorted”.
“I don’t have much time or tears for that, quite frankly,” said Fensome. “They chose to furlough who they furloughed. They could have looked at their gender pay gap before furloughing all the women, or all the high paid women, the situation was totally in their hands.”
The UK’s gender pay gap increased during the pandemic to 15.5 per cent. It is a government requirement that all companies with 250 or more employees publish their gender pay gap data every year and publish it on their websites.
After the success of the Gender Pay Gap Bot, the duo have already got their sights set on other ways to highlight inequality through data. Something to do with LGBTQ+ inequality says Lawson, “because everyone puts a rainbow flag on their logos without actually engaging in much work during Pride month.”
And they say they’ve even had an inquiry from Greenpeace to do something highlighting companies carbon emissions in the face of greenwashing.
The only thing standing in their way is the availability of data. It’s not yet mandatory for companies to report their ethnicity pay gaps, but the couple say that it should be.
“As and when that data does come out, we’d love to be able to use that as another tool to hold companies to account for the inequalities that exist within their organisation.”