On International Women’s Day, an anonymous Twitter ‘bot’ using the handle @PayGapApp took the internet by storm after it began sharing brands’ “fluffy” posts alongside data exposing their gender pay gap. The Drum caught up with one of the people behind it.
Francesca Lawson, a freelance copywriter from Manchester, and her partner Ali Fensome, a software developer, have been revealed as the duo behind the Pay Gap bot. At the time of writing it had amassed over 230,000 Twitter followers and been widely praised for being the antidote to social awareness campaigns on International Women’s Day (IWD).
“I want to make sure that social media is an honest place,” says Lawson on why she created it. “It’s not just a place for businesses and companies to hide behind a smokescreen.”
While Lawson concedes there are plenty of ways to call out bad IWD posts and campaigns, she takes issue with how many offer corporate solidarity that is “fluffy and emotional but essentially vague” while not being honest about the gender inequality within their own walls.
“By creating the bot we have been able to present the facts in a very neutral tone. We are taking a lot of the emotion out of it by simply pushing the reality and letting people make their own decisions. Many have been surprised to see just how many companies still have significant gender pay gaps.”
When it came to creating the algorithm for the bot itself, Lawson says she and her partner made use of the fact that all companies in the UK with over 250 employees must disclose their gender pay gap.
“We’re glad that the project has drawn awareness to the public availability of that information,” she added.
She and Fensome exported the gender pay gap data to run alongside a script that searched Twitter for company names as they appeared in the government data, before cross referencing it with posts that featured International Women’s Day-related hashtags and key phrases.
As the bot gained increased attention on Twitter, followers of the account started noticing that many companies were deleting their posts once they had been flagged. A user named Madeline Odent even created a thread keeping track of the companies that pulled their posts after being tagged by the bot.
“Companies are starting to realize they have nowhere to hide,” explains Lawson, who says she hopes that @PayGapApp will encourage firms to think twice about their social awareness campaigns in future.
“Understandably, events like IWD are a great opportunity for companies to promote initiatives in their workplaces that are fighting for gender equality, and we don’t necessarily want brands to stop communicating on IWD, but they need to make sure that what they are saying is true.
“If you have a gender pay gap, now is a good time to acknowledge it and then outline what you’re going to do to fix it.”
Lawson adds that in the future, she hopes @PayGapApp’s model could be used to improve brand communication around other social justice events such as Pride and Black History Month.
“I hope it encourages more honesty and transparency from brands on social media, so they’re not using it to take up space in a conversation they haven’t earned.”