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TRUTH IN NUMBERS

A genius Twitter bot is calling out companies that post platitudes for International Women’s Day

People holding mobile phones are silhouetted against a backdrop projected with the Twitter logo in Warsaw
Reuters/Kacper Pempel
Stop tweeting.
  • Anne Quito
By Anne Quito

Design and architecture reporter

Published

It’s International Women’s Day, and many corporations have launched effusive tributes to their female employees on social media. Women are powerful! Women are resilient! Women are amazing! But one genius Twitter bot is pointing out truth of a wholly different sort: Women are still woefully underpaid.

Every time a UK-based organization tweets about the United Nations-endorsed holiday, @paygapapp automatically replies with the salary disparity between men and women in that organization to its more-than 75,000 followers. The bot culls salary data published on the UK government’s website, following a 2017 mandate that required every company in the country with 250 or more employees to calculate and report the difference in earnings between male and female workers.

The bot is agnostic about an organization’s mission. Nonprofits and charities are called out as much as for-profits and academic institutions.

The bot also highlights organizations that pay employees almost equitably.

But the hollowness of feel-good gender empowerment messages is particularly embarrassing for companies who prepared branded #StoptheBias campaigns for International Women’s Day. Several organizations have already deleted their social media posts.

Who made the bot?

Gender Pay Gap was a “lockdown project” conceived by Francesca Lawson, a Manchester-based freelance copywriter and Alastair Fensome, a software developer also from the same city. “[We] built it to put the gender pay gap data in the spotlight and enable the public to hold companies to account over the words of ’empowerment’, ‘inspiration’, and ‘celebration’ they tweet on International Women’s Day,” Lawson explains in an email to Quartz. “The data shows that their supportive posts are rarely backed up by action.”

For future International Women’s Day celebrations, Lawson hopes companies will spend less time crafting external messages and more time looking internally. “I want employers to stop treating International Women’s Day as a Hallmark holiday and start taking responsibility for the inequalities in their organizations,” she says.

The average gender pay gap in the UK is 15.4%, per 2020 numbers. It’s a similar scenario in the US, where women are making 16% less than what their male colleagues earn, according to a 2020 study by Pew Research Center.

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