To celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD), we assess 5 areas organisations can look to improve gender equality.
Organisations should already be aware that it is unlawful to pay women less than men working in the same position. However, this also applies where staff participate in work that is similar in nature, rated as equivalent and of equal value. Organisations should cast a critical eye over their pay practices on this basis if they want to ensure a truly gender balanced workplace. In addition, although the gender pay gap report is only a requirement for organisations with 250 or more employees, there is nothing preventing smaller firms from voluntarily producing their own report to assess any existing pay disparities.
Recruitment also has a considerable role to play in gender equality and any methods must provide equal opportunities to both male and female candidates. Job adverts should be inclusive and employers must avoid using gender specific terms or simply refusing applicants based on their gender. Interviewers have a big role to play and should be trained on the dangers of unconscious bias and provided with a clear checklist of skills and experience to prevent hiring decisions being influenced by personal prejudice. Commentators also argue that asking applicants about previous salaries and basing wage offers on their responses is more likely to disadvantage female staff, therefore organisations may want to think if this is truly necessary.
Organisations should also look at their workplace culture and consider whether this is welcoming and inclusive for all staff. It is important that female employees feel that they belong and are respected at work which means organisations should work to create a supportive culture, that actively discourages offensive workplace banter and toxic masculinity. One way to do this would be to provide anti-harassment and sensitivity training for employees as part of their induction process, ensuring they are fully aware of what constitutes inappropriate behaviour from the outset.
Having appropriate workplace policies will be integral to improving gender equality and the parameters of these must not create a disadvantage for women in the workplace. This means organisations should not shy away from policies that provide extra support to working mothers, such as considering enhanced maternity leave and being as reasonable as possible with flexible working requests, which allow for more favourable working conditions for those with family commitments. An equal opportunities policy can be used to set out an organisation’s pledge to provide equality to all.
Several recent studies have highlighted the lack of diversity in leadership positions and organisations would do well to try and address this trend. Whilst this doesn’t necessary mean that a female employee should be promoted as a token gesture, organisations should be looking at ways to provide women with equal opportunities when it comes to career progression. This can be achieved by mentoring female talent and providing them with the same access to career enhancing training, as well as having a clear and transparent process for deciding on internal promotions to ensure decisions are based on skill rather than gender.