Tim Harford has written a brilliant column, about the "dead cat" strategy which got me thinking about gender pay gap reporting.
The term, coined by Boris Johnson, is basically a distraction technique in the face of losing an argument. In particular, Harford relates it to that infamous figure which was emblazoned on the side of the Vote Leave bus. It got me thinking about the reporting requirements for gender pay gap - coming into play next year.
While pay gap reporting is a brilliant and brave thing - hopefully bulldozing change that is long overdue - I still have my concerns.
The requirements for publications are fairly vague and I am worried that a number of organisations will - to use Harford's language - throw the dead cat at the problem. It's very possible that we will have to trawl through masses and masses of data published on websites. Maybe it'll be lots of nifty graphs and infographics. Or a huge gushing statement from the CEO full of CSR jargon. Ultimately, this is a name and shame exercise and it's unlikely that anyone is going to come off too well. We just need to make sure we're communicating honestly and properly - and not distracting from the actual facts.
You don’t need to take my word for it that distraction is the goal. A few years ago, a cynical commentator described the “dead cat” strategy, to be deployed when losing an argument at a dinner party: throw a dead cat on the table. The awkward argument will instantly cease, and everyone will start losing their minds about the cat. The cynic’s name was Boris Johnson.