Top Stories

April 06, 2017

Gender Equality

Thousands of U.K. firms begin publishing gender pay-gap figures

Thousands of U.K. employers are set to begin publishing figures showing the difference between what men and women earn. Voluntary, private and public organizations with 250 or more employees will have to reveal any gender discrepancies in staff pay by April next year. It comes into force today, Thursday, and it will affect roughly 9,000 firms employing more than 15 million people, almost half the U.K. workforce. Employers will publish figures from a “snapshot” period in April, calculating the median and mean pay gaps, the proportion of men and women in each quartile of the payroll and the gaps reflected in any bonuses. Companies will also be encouraged to publish “action plans” showing how they will attempt to close any gaps. Also, Government bodies will have “appropriate enforcement powers” for companies that do not comply with the measures. Relatively few big organizations currently report such data. Those that do include BHP Billiton, Swedbank, Microsoft, SSE and Singapore Exchange according to Bloomberg Intelligence. (Bloomberg)


Airbnb’s gender diversity efforts put Uber in shade

When Airbnb’s data science team realised that only 10 per cent of new recruits were women, the team doubled its proportion of women from 15 per cent to 30 per cent in a year, showing that progress can be made in tackling the tech industry’s gender diversity problem. The company’s efforts contrast with what Susan Fowler says happened to her at Uber, where there are few women with technical skills, and where Ms Fowler was ignored when she alleged sexual harassment. When she joined in November 2015, her part of the organisation was made up of 25 per cent women but that figure later dropped to just 6 per cent. Now Uber is searching for a new chief operating officer who will help the company create a culture that is fairer to women. Indeed its first report, published last week, holds women held just 15 per cent of technical jobs, lower than many peers, and 22 per cent of management roles. “One way they can enhance the number of applicants is by creating a culture that is accepting and inclusive”, says Deborah Rhodes, a law professor at Stanford University. (Financial Times)*

Data Privacy

UK charities fined for data law breaches

Eleven charities including Oxfam, Cancer Research UK, The Royal British Legion and Battersea Dogs‘ and Cats’ Home have been fined by the UK’s data watchdog for misusing information. The regulator said that some of the charities had hired companies to profile the wealth of their donors. It said this was done by investigating their incomes, lifestyles, property values and friendship circles among other means. In some cases, the “wealth screening” process was also used to flag those most likely to be convinced to leave money in their wills. Some charities are also accused of tracking down additional data about past supporters, which ignores the fact people have the right to choose what information they share. The Information Commissioner’s Office carried out the probe after reports that charity supporters were being pressured into follow-up donations. Last December, the British Heart Foundation and The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals were fined for similar activity. The Charity Commission for England and Wales is also now investigating. (BBC)

Supply Chain

Tech firms urged to expand gaze to account for ‘myriad’ of conflict mineral risks

Analysis from global risk advisory firm Verisk Maplecroft has discovered that efforts to improve the ethical sourcing of conflict minerals such as tin, tantalum and gold (3TG) from large exporting areas like DR Congo and the African Great Lakes region may inadvertently create supply chain links to child and forced labour across the globe. 3TG form some of the components widely used in cellphones, and in all kinds of items, ranging from medical implants to consumer products. In areas such as DR Congo, which accounts for around 20% of the world’s tantalum, the minerals are often linked to armed forces who use the revenue to finance their operations. Although the analysis noted that child labour and other human rights abuses were unlikely to appear in “responsible international mining” companies, due to the use of best practice standards, tech firms often don’t know where metals arrive from because of a lack of visibility in supply chains at mine and smelter levels. (Edie)


Reebok to ‘grow’ bio-based footwear

Reebok’s Cotton + Corn initiative was announced on Tuesday (4 April) and aims to bring plant-based shoes into the market at some point in 2017. The first release will be footwear comprised of organic cotton for the upper material and a non-food source industrial corn shoe base. The fitness apparel firm’s innovation department, Reebok Future, partnered with DuPont Tate and Lyle Bio Products to deliver the bio-based solution. DuPont has worked with Lyle to develop a petroleum free, non-toxic 100% bio-based product that has been certified by the US Department of Agriculture. Reebok is already planning on composting the footwear once its older to help grow the next range of shoes. “Ultimately, our goal is to create a broad selection of bio-based footwear that can be composted after use. We’ll then use that compost as part of the soil to grow the materials for the next range of shoes,” said Reebok Future’s head Bill McInnis. (Edie)

Image source: at Flickr. Some rights reserved: (CC BY 2.0)