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Cancer Research UK publishes gender and ethnicity pay gap reports

The Cancer Research UK logo
by Cancer Research UK | News

20 January 2022

1 comment 1 comment

Cancer Research UK staff

As part of Cancer Research UK’s ongoing commitment to improving the diversity of the organisation, the charity has today published its gender pay gap and ethnicity pay gap reports.

At Cancer Research UK we strongly believe that it is only by putting equality, diversity and inclusion at the heart of our charity, and setting ourselves ambitious targets, that we will become the best charity that we can be, a leader in diversity and inclusion, and make the greatest progress in our collective fight against cancer.

– Michelle Mitchell, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive. 

Cancer Research UK’s gender pay gap report  

The charity has reported that the mean gender pay gap increased from 15% in 2020 to 19.7% in 2021, and the median (middle) gender pay gap has increased from 29.2% in 2020 to 30.9% in 2021.  

Michelle Mitchell, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, reiterated the importance of these figures to evaluate progress and said it was disappointing that the charity didn’t make more progress in addressing the gender pay gap over the reporting year. 

Mitchell added that there are many factors that have contributed to the increase this year, not least major disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. In response, Cancer Research UK brought in a recruitment freeze for 4 months, went through a major organisational restructure that resulted in a significant reduction in headcount, and saw higher numbers of senior female staff leaving.   

How are pay gaps calculated? 

The gender pay gap legislation introduced in April 2017 requires UK employers with 250 employees or more to publish data about their gender pay gap based on the make-up of their organisation on 5 April. 

The gender pay gap is the difference in average pay between all men and women regardless of the work they perform.  

The ethnicity pay gap is calculated by comparing the average pay of white employees and ethnic minority employees in an organisation, regardless of the roles they do. The same methodology as the gender pay gap has been used in the calculation of the ethnicity pay gap data. 

The 2021 figures, calculated on the 5 April 2021, are an important way for the charity to evaluate progress.

“An indirect consequence of the pandemic, and our reduction in staff numbers outside of our retail arm, means that the retail part of the charity now makes up more than half of our organisation. As these roles are largely held by women, with lower average salaries in the retail sector, this has contributed to our wider pay gaps. 

“We aren’t where we want to be, and it is disappointing that we have not made progress in closing our gender pay gap. We are committed to driving change in line with the actions set out in our EDI strategy and I’m confident that we have a solid plan in place to help us regain momentum in the years ahead.” 

Since the data was calculated on 5 April 2021, the charity has appointed several female senior roles and attained its target of having at least 50% of women in its top two grades – executive director and director – but recognises there is still a long way to go. 

The charity has also taken positive steps in the last year, including implementing a policy to include salary ranges in all internal and external recruitment adverts, and the recruitment team reviews relevant peer salaries ahead of offers to ensure parity is achieved wherever possible. Also, launching an updated Flexible Working Policy. This has meant most office-based roles now have a much greater degree of flexibility, with the aim of removing some barriers to progression experienced by women and working parents and carers. They’ve also targeted investment in female leaders through external mentoring and fellowship programmes. 

Cancer Research UK’s ethnicity pay gap report  

Whilst publishing the company’s ethnicity pay gap isn’t a legal requirement, Cancer Research UK welcomes the opportunity to share its progress and plans to be a more diverse charity. 

This year, the mean (average) ethnicity pay gap is -9.3%, meaning staff from an ethnic minority background are paid on average more than white employees. This gap has narrowed marginally since the previous year, when it was -9.5%. The median (middle) ethnicity pay gap is -32%.   

But Mitchell warned that while the ethnicity pay gap is in favour of ethnic minority staff, it’s based on small numbers, and it would be wrong to assume that it doesn’t need exploring.   

88% of all Cancer Research UK staff have disclosed their ethnicity data, and 13% of these are from an ethnic minority 

The report highlights that there are fewer colleagues from an ethnic minority background in retail roles, which tend to be lower paid. Cancer Research UK has over 600 shops across the UK and in Jersey and Guernsey and is working to increase ethnic diversity in all areas of the charity, including retail. 

“We have a great deal of work to do to improve diversity at Cancer Research UK. We have implemented changes to our recruitment and selection process to address this, including the introduction of anonymous CVs, as well as increasing our data and reporting on applicant demographics. 

Mitchell added that the leadership team have “made great strides in recent years to address the gender balance at the top, but we haven’t achieved the same progress with ethnicity in senior leadership roles. 

“As a result, we’ve been setting targets and working to achieve balanced shortlists of candidates with a specific focus on gender and ethnicity.” 


  • Janyne Afseth
    7 February 2022

    It is disappointing to see increasing gender inequality and I wondered if there are any plans to publish subgroup analysis based on professional roles of the charity to help understand the changes.


  • Janyne Afseth
    7 February 2022

    It is disappointing to see increasing gender inequality and I wondered if there are any plans to publish subgroup analysis based on professional roles of the charity to help understand the changes.