Companies flooded Twitter with International Women’s Day platitudes. Then a bot began replying with their gender pay gap figures

March 9, 2022, 12:31 PM UTC

Many corporations marked International Women’s Day on March 8 by tweeting photographs of woman colleagues alongside positive statements that celebrated the proud and equal work they do.

They did not mention this meant equal in everything but pay, however. But that omission was quickly fixed, at least in the U.K.

As U.K.-based organizations tweeted a flood of posts with platitudes celebrating their “sheroes,” a bot replied with the gender pay gap at each company in question.

The bot, @PayGapApp, which has over 75,000 followers, replied to every corporate tweet that used the hashtag #IWD2022 with a quote tweet highlighting the salary disparity between men and women in the company—a figure that is publicly available on the U.K. government website.

The U.K. government has required all companies with more than 250 employees to report their gender pay disparity since 2017.

This has resulted in a public shaming of companies who virtue signal the immensely proud achievements women have done for them, but may not have been equally paid to do.

The bot reported the pay gaps of every company that made an International Women’s day post, regardless of whether pay disparity was in favor of men, women, or equal.

Bot creators

The app was created by freelance copywriter Francesca Lawson and software developer Alastair Fensome, who are both based in Manchester. Lawson noted the inspiration for the bot came after she worked as an in-house social media manager and was asked by her bosses to make posts on what the company was doing for women’s equality whenever an event like International Women’s day came around.

She noted that at the time, “I am just staring at my screen and thinking, ‘None of this is true. This is my life you’re prescribing to me, and it doesn’t match the reality.’”

She told Fortune: “What I get annoyed at with International Women’s Day and any awareness event that is linked to a social issue, so say Pride, Black History Month, it’s all the same. Companies will show their support across all their comms and their social media, but they don’t provide any data or evidence to show what they are doing to challenge discrimination.”

The bot became so popular that after some companies were called out, they deleted tweets and reposted them without the hashtag so as to not be associated with the quote tweet. After the University of Exeter’s International Women’s Day tweet was quote-tweeted by the bot, noting that women’s median hourly pay is 20% lower than men’s, the university deleted the post and reposted it, supposedly due to a typo.

 “I think it is cowardly to delete your post after being called out because this is an opportunity for you then to change the conversation,” Lawson says. She notes the bot intends to “challenge these empty gestures of support and empowerment and inspiration and hold them to account and force them to be like, ‘Yea, you got problems.’”

In the 2021 reporting year, eight out of 10 U.K. organizations with more than 250 employees still paid men more than women.

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