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France's SocGen pledges to plug gender pay gap with $107 million

FILE PHOTO: Logo of French bank Societe Generale in La Defense near Paris

By Tommy Wilkes

LONDON (Reuters) - Societe Generale said it will try to close its gender pay gap by spending 100 million euros ($107 million) to boost remuneration of the French bank's female employees over the next two years.

Employers globally have been criticised for moving slowly to close the gap and data in countries such as Britain, which has a large financial services sector, shows the difference at banks between pay for male and female staff is often far bigger.

Many banks have pledged to move faster but SocGen, which employs 117,000 people in 66 countries, is unusual in publicly allocating a budget and pledging to spend it.

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A spokesperson for SocGen told Reuters on Monday that France's third-largest listed bank had reached the 100 million euro sum by calculating the cash needed to close the gender pay gap for women in the same or similar roles as men, where there was no reasonable explanation for a discrepancy.

The money amounts to less than 1% of SocGen's roughly 10 billion euro total wage bill. The spokesperson declined to provide a group gender pay gap percentage figure.

"We believe that allocating 100 million euros will close the pay gap," the spokesperson said in an email to Reuters, after the bank earlier gave its strategy update.

Many banks have said they are acting to end discrepancies, but say it will take time to eliminate pay gaps completely due to more men typically holding senior roles in the industry.

SocGen acknowledges that more men will continue to hold senior roles than women for some time and that it would take longer for the average female employee to be paid the same as the average male employee. On Monday it announced a target of having 35% of senior leadership roles held by women by 2026.

SocGen's 2022 gender pay gap report in the UK, which covers employees at its London and international business, said the median pay gap for hourly pay was 26.2% - much higher than the average UK employer but less than the 30.1% average across 20 of the biggest finance firms.

Businesses with more than 250 employees in Britain must disclose the difference between the pay and bonuses of male and female staff.

Ann Francke, chief executive at the Chartered Management Institute, said in UK workplaces managers and their organisations often identify pay gaps but stop short of enacting measures to close them.

SocGen appeared to be addressing "this issue in a meaningful way, by really 'doing' something", Francke said.

Consultancy EY said on Monday that having more women in senior roles was vital for closing pay gaps. Although 43% of European financial services board members are now women, they are less likely than male counterparts to hold C-suite roles.

($1 = 0.9369 euros)

(Reporting by Tommy Reggiori Wilkes, additional reporting by Iain Withers, editing by Alexander Smith)