This month, we celebrated International Women’s Day; a day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, and a call to action for gender equality.
Would you be shocked to know that, of the 10,015 companies who submitted their Gender pay data in 2018, 78% reported a pay gap that favoured men over women? When women were asked why they felt this was so, they cited problems such as; male-dominated cultures; unhelpful HR policies; biased recruitment processes; and other factors that all contributed as additional barriers to success. Equal pay for equal work is regarded as right and just, but there’s still a significant gender pay gap in the UK. Harriet Harman, in an BBC clip in April 2018, commented that we have a pay structure which reflects how it “used to be and not how it should be”, which is that “an hour of a woman’s work is no less valuable than an hour of a man’s work”.
We can each play our part in closing the gap, removing the barriers, and ensuring equality now and in the future. We need to look beyond the concept of two genders and accept that not all people assign themselves to the genitalia they were born with. Let us stop pigeon holing salaries based on our physical attributes but on the actual work we are employed to complete.
So how can you, as an employer, create gender equality in your workplace, and in turn, encourage more women to pursue a career in your field?
Set the Tone
We’ll start off by sharing a truth… in a male-dominated workplace, nothing brings a conversation screeching to a halt like the mention of gender equality. In many cases, it can even send some men running for the hills, through fear of doing or saying the wrong thing and incurring legal action. However, gender equality will be impossible to achieve without the support of men to inspire cultural change right across the board.
One way to inspire engagement and support, is to gear your company tone and focus towards ‘equality for all’, not just ‘equality for women’. The all-inclusive terminology should help allay the concerns of even the most fearful of litigation! Such a tone will also help new employees learn at the interview stage what they can expect from the company in terms of gender equality, and what will be expected of them in entering a gender equal workplace.
Be Flexible, Find a Balance
Although care for children, elderly relatives and people with disabilities can be delivered effectively by either a man or a woman, it typically falls to the woman to take on this role. It’s a traditional, cultural and societal expectation that won’t likely change in a hurry. Indeed, one of the main reasons women earn less than men, is that women are more likely to turn down higher-paying jobs due to the longer and less predictable hours, with lack of flexibility and support for carers.
To create a fair and balanced workplace, and to help close the pay gap and promote women’s advancement up the career ladder alongside their male counterparts, consider subsidising or helping with childcare (and indeed, elderly and care for those with disabilities). Look into flexible working options that allow employees to work from home on occasion or on a semi-regular basis. In addition, there are many who would love to be more involved in their children’s care, the care of an elderly loved one or those with disabilities. Just as we would expect job flexibility to be a desire and requirement of mothers, don’t overlook or forget fathers. Look into implementing policies that both promote and support shared parental leave and paternity leave, and actively highlight these opportunities to the men you employ who may not be aware of their existence.
We don’t talk about our salaries. It’s culturally often seen as rude to discuss money in the UK, and that pay is confidential – it’s between the employer and the employee. But let’s imagine for a moment that you, as the employer, were tasked with publishing all of your employees’ salaries for each other to read. Would the revelation result in agreement and acceptance, or disbelief and uproar? If the latter, you must address why, and if it applies to a gender pay gap, it’s time to close it with the utmost urgency. In the longer term, perhaps consider implementing a pay grade scale, with incremental pay increases within a given band, and assigning all job roles within your business to the appropriate pay scale – this will ensure that all employees, no matter what their sexual or gender orientation, will be paid the appropriate salary for the work they are employed to do. What if, at the recruitment stage, you not only informed your prospective new employee of their starting salary, but also shared the starting salaries of their new coworkers? This approach might be considered unconventional, and would require the agreement of employees whose salaries you plan to share, but it could go a long way towards giving new recruits peace of mind that they can expect to be paid and treated fairly and equally, as well as reducing chances of litigation later.
Companies that operate on a gender equal basis enjoy higher levels of job satisfaction amongst employees, and great reputations amongst clients, social media audiences and future talent. These tips just touch on the huge subject of gender equality – there are many more approaches and initiatives you may consider but the key factor is that, regardless of whether men take more advantage of one area than women, and women take more advantage of another area than men, opportunities and access should be available to everyone.
Encouraging gender equality in the workplace is not and should not be a one-sided effort – it requires the work of both women and men. Design your approach, initiatives, policies and message around equality for everyone. The wonderful side effect will be more women taking on senior roles and entering workplaces where they were previously under-represented, which in turn will lead to more equality in recruitment and interview processes, diversity in decision-making, and more opportunities for mentoring and coaching of other women now considering those fields through their increased visibility. Everyone wins!
Do you have questions or concerns as to how to address gender equality matters in your workplace?