On International Women’s Day (IWD), a genius Twitter bot is causing havoc with large companies’ attempts to paper over the cracks on gender inequality by marking IWD with elaborate PR exercises celebrating the women who work for them. Every time an organisation tweets about their IWD initiatives, the account is responding by publishing their gender pay gap.
A Twitter bot is a type of software that can autonomously perform actions such as tweeting, re-tweeting, liking, following, unfollowing, or direct messaging other accounts, without direct human intervention. Bot accounts have attracted controversy by being used to spam users, manipulate responses to politicians and activists and violating user privacy. However, bots can also broadcast helpful information, automatically generate interesting or creative content, and reply to users via direct message.
The Gender Pay Gap bot works like this: as the companies use the #IWD2022 hashtag, the Gender Pay Gap Bot automatically detects the Tweet and quotes it, with data about the median hourly pay gap between men and women at each organisation. This has caused considerable embarrassment for many of the companies concerned.
The Gender Pay Gap Bot’s data is limited to UK companies that employ 250 or more people – who are required by law to report data about their gender pay gap. That data, in turn, is posted on the Government’s gender pay gap database. This is the information the bot uses in its tweets.
The theme for IWD 2022 is #BreakTheBias, with the aim of striving towards “a gender equal world” without gender bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. According to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), full time employees who are men earned 7.9% more than women in 2021 (down from 9% in 2019). Under a new Government initiative, announced to coincide with IWD, companies will be asked to include salaries in job adverts in an effort to narrow the gender pay gap.
The Government’s online tool allows anyone to search and compare the gender pay gap of any companies that employ more than 250 people. As reported by the Independent, the Gender Pay Gap Bot has caused a furore on Twitter, with some companies even deleting their original tweets after being called out.
“The account revealed that British pub chain company Young’s Pubs pays its male employees 73.2 per cent more than women after the business tweeted that it was “very privileged to have some incredible women working” for it.”
In another example, West Mercia Police tweeted about a lunchtime walk by female staff to “talk about the importance of challenging bias and stereotypes,” and the Gender Pay Gap Bot immediately posted: “In this organisation, women’s median hourly pay is 22.9 per cent lower than men’s.”
The account is run by freelance copywriter Francesca Lawson and software developer Ali Fensome, based in Manchester. It has more than 30,000 followers. Francesca told the i Newspaper:
“I had this idea about how frustrating it is to see companies celebrating International Women’s Day and putting out things about empowerment and inspiration, but they’ve not got their own house in order. We wanted to put this information in the spotlight to help people see through these empowerment messages and start holding companies to account and start actually encouraging them to make some progress on their gender pay gap.”