Long way to go to close UK pay gap, ‘The Apprentice’ star Karren Brady says

LONDON — Business leader and star of the U.K.’s “The Apprentice” series, Karren Brady, has told CNBC that the solution to the gender pay gap is “very simple”.

Brady, who is a baroness and vice-chairman of West Ham United Football Club, said there isn’t a magic formula to pay equality.

“You don’t need the fairies to come down and sprinkle the dust. You need the CEOs and the boards to make a concerted effort to pay people what they’re worth, and pay a woman who’s doing the same job as a man the same rate, it’s very simple,” she said.

Brady is a partner and keynote speaker at Karren Brady’s Women in Business & Tech Expo, which is taking place virtually on Oct. 13-14. The event is “designed for all women at any stage of their career” and aims to provide “inspiration, guidance and business services to find a perfect career match or support a business.”

Speaking ahead of the event and a key U.K. government deadline for employers to submit their gender pay gap information, Brady told CNBC: “I think what the government hoped to do by asking companies to report the gap was to sort of shame them into addressing it, and certainly into thinking about it, and I think that has worked.”

However, she feels there’s a “long way to go” in closing the gap.

“We stand a very long way from achieving it. As we know from the gaps that have been reported, that for every pound a man makes, a woman makes 86p,” she said. “It’s going to take 100 years to close that gap, and in some industries, like tech and finance, that gap is more like 40%. So, we have a long way to go to address that problem and a lot to do.”

Research conducted for the Women in Business & Tech Expo about how women had come through the Covid-19 pandemic indicated that it had provided many with an opportunity to “reset,” Brady said.

“I think a lot of women, when we asked them, over half of them, 62%, said they are looking for a much better work life balance in their careers, and 59% said that actually achieving that work life balance was more important than their salary,” she said.

Brady told CNBC there’s much more employers can do by “thinking less about flexible working and more about agile working. It’s also about addressing the fact that women do need to take time off.”

Baroness Karren Brady, a Member of Parliament of the United Kingdom, a sporting executive, tv personality, newspaper columnist, author and novelist, speaks at Pendulum Summit, World’s Leading Business & Self Empowerment Summit, in Dublin Convention Center.

NurPhoto | NurPhoto | Getty Images

“Lots of employers were quite nervous about people working from home and felt that that sort of really was skiving. I think people now realize that people can work effectively from home and having that flexibility really helps,” she said, adding that women won’t work for companies that don’t respect them and pay them what they’re worth.

“So I think a lot of these issues are really being thought about and companies are really thinking that if 50% of the workforce is women and you want great people to work for you … they’re going to have to address some of these issues,” she continued.

‘Take some control’

Brady told CNBC she had always been concerned about the situation for women.

“I’ve spent my whole life promoting women in business and opening doors for women, and making women realize and understand the value that they bring,” she said, explaining that that’s why she set the expo up.

“To really encourage women to think about their opportunities, their careers. If they’ve taken time off, how do they get back? How do they get that promotion? How do they get that pay rise? How do they get up the ladder?” she said.

“All of these things are really important for women, not only to you know take part in a survey, but then to actually do something about it. We have to take some control ourselves over our life and our career and the direction in which we go in.”


As vice chairman of West Ham United Football Club, Brady also commented on recent reports that several players on the England football team had refused to have a Covid-19 vaccine.

Brady said she feels vaccination “is a very personal decision”.

“I think it’s almost impossible to insist that someone gets vaccinated and there’ll be all sorts of reasons why people won’t. Some of them are those crazy conspiracy theories that are too ludicrous to mention, and some are other genuine concerns,” she said.

“But I really do think it’s a personal choice. I mean, I’m pleased to say that a lot of our players have had it, some still have reservations and we’re working with them to overcome those, but it very much is a personal choice, I believe.”

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