Women In Music Company Award winners PPL

Juliette Edwards, Peter Leathem and Kate Reilly

"We strongly believe that having a more diverse workforce, with different perspectives and different outlooks, means we end up having a stronger company,” says PPL chief executive, Peter Leathem. “This is about trying to do things well, to have good recruitment, good training, and ultimately having a diversity of views and opinions that can lead to very strong results.”

The proof is there in the latest set of figures for the collection management organisation, which this year made its largest ever distribution to performers and record companies – £150.7 million. The results, issued in July, showed a 12% year-on-year increase.

So while equal representation is undoubtedly a good thing for any organisation, Leathem also believes it delivers results. In which case, PPL’s growth over recent years has been significantly bolstered by the efforts of Kate Reilly, director of people and organisational development, and Juliette Edwards, head of people and organisational development.

“We do a lot of coaching and development,” says Edwards, who joined PPL in 2014 and was promoted within a year. “We have mandatory training to make sure that we cover unconscious bias in a positive way, and we ensure people are educated on what this means and how we can be a more inclusive organisation.”

For PPL, the diversity agenda begins at the recruitment stage, and the HR team work with organisations such as LGBT rights charity Stonewall to ensure language in job adverts is based around inclusivity.

For women employees returning from maternity leave, PPL helps with the transition process. “To provide that support, through coaching, is something that we’re very passionate about,” says Edwards.

As PPL’s reach extends to much of the UK music business, it’s only right that it should be helping the entire industry to do better on diversity. Reilly, who joined PPL in 2011, was promoted to her current senior role in 2015, which coincided with the launch of UK Music Diversity Taskforce. Over the last three years, she’s been involved in the industry-wide initiative to map progress and improve opportunities for people from all backgrounds.

“The Diversity Taskforce has been very positive,” says Reilly. “It has been a good opportunity for us to share ideas with other [organisations] so that we can contribute to our industry. Any opportunity that you’re provided with to discuss issues, challenges, and things that are working well with other members of the industry can only be a positive thing, just to share experiences and learn from one another.”

PPL is in many ways a model music company with a strong record on diversity. In 2017, it had BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) representation of 22%, based on those employees who opted to make a declaration on racial background.

The male-to-female split for PPL’s 342 employees last year was 56% and 44% respectively. With a mean gender pay gap of 6.6%, it has out-performed major labels in the recorded music industry and similar licensing organisations. If Leathem’s CEO salary was excluded, the mean pay gap would have been 2.2%.

PPL’s median gender pay gap is actually 4.3% in favour of women. The proportion of male and female employees who received a bonus is 84.2% and 82.8% respectively. PPL’s upper pay quartile has a better gender split than other music companies: 45.5% women to 54.5% men.

“We’re already in a pretty good place in terms of the gender pay gap and that’s because we have a lot of women in senior roles,” says Leathem. “It’s all a work in progress. We anticipate that we’ll just carry on trying to do things properly, trying to do things well and then benefit from the outcomes.”

While PPL has its fair share of technical and IT roles to ensure the smooth processing of licensing data, it has not become top-heavy with white, male staff – a problem that plagues some tech companies.

“Our head of IT is female, we’ve got a whole range of diverse technical roles,” says Leathem.

“The key for us actually is, regardless of gender, just hiring the right person with the right skill set for the right role,” adds Reilly. “The key to that is ensuring that your [recruitment] pool is as wide as possible, so that you do cover every aspect of diversity but you make the decisions for the right reasons.”

Under Reilly’s HR management, PPL was named Company Of The Year – Small To Medium Business at the Employee Engagement Awards last year. Now, their track record on diversity is being awarded with the top honour in the music industry at the Women In Music Awards. For Leathem, it’s a validation of PPL’s progressive approach, which internal surveys show has boosted productivity and reduced staff turnover under his leadership over the last seven years.

“Having any focus on diversity with this award, and an opportunity to talk about things and share experiences, has to be a good thing,” says Leathem.

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