In recent weeks, #PayMeToo has gained traction following the mandatory publication of the gender pay gap differential in UK-based companies with more than 250 employees. Six F1 teams - Mercedes, McLaren, Williams, Red Bull, Renault, and Force India - published their results, and on face value some of the gaps looked pretty shocking.

But for Formula 1, traditionally a male-dominated sport that has seen a dramatic increase in female involvement since 2010, part of the pay gap problem stems from the way in which the criteria was assessed.

Claire Williams, deputy team principal of the eponymous team, said in Bahrain that the published results were misleading.

“I think the criteria by which we have to report has been particularly misleading,” she said. “You look at the tables of teams that have had to report and Williams is pretty far down the bottom, but they are looking at the mean and the median. And actually the most important thing when you’re looking at gender pay is that women are paid the same amount as their male counterparts for doing the same role. That’s the most important thing. At Williams we tackled that issue a while ago, probably 12-18 months ago.”

Williams is not alone in having published results that appear to paint a more negative picture of the gender pay gap than the reality on the ground. McLaren’s own report opens with a clear definition of the gender pay gap - which is not the same as equal pay.

“The gender pay gap is a measure of the difference between the average hourly earnings of men and women,” the McLaren report reads. “The gender pay gap in the UK is 18 percent, but varies significantly by sector.

“The gender pay gap differs from equal pay. Equal pay deals with the pay difference between men and women who carry out the same or similar jobs but are being paid differently. The gender pay gap shows the difference in the average pay, worked out on an hourly rate basis, between men and women, taking into account all jobs, at all levels and all salaries within an organisation.”

And therein lies the crux of the matter where Formula 1 is concerned: the existing gender imbalance within the sport amplifies differences in pay. In a traditional retail setting, for example, male and female employees will be performing very similar roles and deserve to receive the same pay for doing the same work. Cashiers are on one pay grade, stockroom workers on another, and management on a third. Within those grades, differences in pay should be based on experience and responsibility, not on gender.

But in F1, it is only recently that we have seen a significant growth in the number of women applying for technical roles as engineers, mechanics, aerodynamicists, and so on. The women who do hold those roles are paid the same as their male colleagues, again dependent on experience. But two entry-level mechanics both in their first year of work will receive the same pay irrespective of gender.

“I do think the report that came out this week is misleading,” Williams said. “We know, and I can sit here with total transparency, saying all women at Williams are paid for doing the identical roles that men are paid. I think that’s the most important issue that we have to address.

"I think that these reports that have come out this week can be extremely misleading, because they are comparing situations where actually there are far fewer women in our roles in our teams, because this is a very male-dominated sport and always has been.”

Traditionally, women working in F1 have been involved in administrative roles, in marketing and communications, and in catering and hospitality - all skilled professional spheres that rely less on specialised knowledge. Salaries for said roles are generally equivalent to the salaries offered for similar roles in the private sector. An F1 accounts clerk is not going to be out-earning a normal accounts clerk in the same way that an F1 mechanic will earn substantially more than one working at Kwik-Fit.

The small but growing corps of women working in specialised, technical roles in Formula 1 are being paid the same as their much larger group of male colleagues with the same skills and experience, which is exactly how it should be.

F1’s real challenge lies in ensuring that more and more women are attracted to the sport in any role, technical or otherwise. But it is not the only challenge. The sport also needs to work with the wider STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) world to boost uptake of STEM subjects at secondary and tertiary level among students of both genders.

Declining numbers of STEM graduates around the world means that it is becoming critical to encourage as many capable students as possible into STEM fields at university and post-graduate level in order to ensure the long-term health of industries as varied as aviation, aerospace, automotive, civil engineering – and motorsport.

“We’ve done a huge amount of work to tackle [the gender imbalance in our workforce] over the past 12 months and we continue to do so,” WIlliams said. “I think at Williams we probably do more work than most of the teams in the paddock, and I’m really proud to say that, either through the initiatives we’ve set up over the past two years to address the situation, or through the work we do with external parties such as F1 in Schools and Dare to be Different.

“And we will keep plugging this conversation and keep doing this work to ensure that we have more females coming into our team and into motorsport as a whole. It’s so important when we’re looking at a shortage of engineers coming up. We have to be talking to all students, male and female, in secondary and tertiary education if we’re to make sure that at the end of the day this sport survives.

"But it is also really important to say that we recruit on merit. Sport has to be done on a meritocracy; it’s not just a box-ticking exercise for us to make sure that we have more women in. It’s to make sure that we have quality people coming into our racing teams to work.”

In motorsport, as in life, you get what you pay for. And if Formula 1 teams want to recruit the best people – male, female, or other – they have to pay the going rate for the talent.

Forget chromosomes. In F1, it’s competency that counts.