Gender equality in the workplace remains a contentious issue. The so-called pay gap and glass ceiling have long been an obstacle for women at work; the low percentage of women in the c-suite highlights the full extent of the problem, and a desperate need for change. Whilst there have clearly been some improvements for women in the last 50 years, gender equality seems to have stagnated, with little changing in over a decade.
The latest statistics do show a positive trend, with more women on UK boards than ever before. However, the percentage of women in senior leadership roles remains low, only slightly rising to 22 percent in 2018. To add to this, women currently only make approximately 80 percent of men’s median hourly wages. Acknowledging that there is still a major problem with gender equality at work is a good place to start, but there are several things businesses can do to help create a fairer environment for all of it’s employees. Here’s our round-up of the key changes employers can make to promote gender equality at work:
We’ve come a long way since the 1950s portrayal of women as the good little housewife who tends to the children, gets the house in order, has dinner on the table at 6pm sharp, and does it all with a smile. But more often than not, women still tend to be the main caregiver when it comes to children – taking time off for child illness, when childcare falls through, and for doctors’ appointments.
This absence from work can leave women at a disadvantage when it comes to being considered for promotion, but also has resulted in women being more likely to take a lower paid job in favour of a role with flexible hours, once more widening the pay gap.
Offering flexible working arrangements makes a huge difference to encourage equality in the workplace. Consider allowing your employees to work from home occasionally, or to have flexitime whereby they can start and finish earlier or later depending on their needs. For example, if an employee normally works from 9am–5pm, let them work 7am–3pm if it suits them better.
Women can often be held back from progressing in their careers due to taking time out for raising children, and working reduced hours to fit in with family life.
Offer all your employees the same opportunities for development and promotion, by basing it on people’s skills and performance, and the value they add to the business, rather than any factor such as gender, race or age.
This isn’t just about supporting women in the workplace; many fathers also want to be more involved with family life and play an active role in sharing parental responsibilities. Ensure your policies enable both men and women to be able to do so, by allowing remote working or flexibility around start and finish times.
Promoting shared parental leave as an option is also a great way to make your workplace fairer for both men and women.
Being open about pay is a big taboo at work, often being considered rude to broach the subject with co-workers. But transparency over salaries is a step in the right direction for reducing the gender pay gap once and for all.
If you were to publish the salaries of every employee in your business, would it cause a major uproar amongst co-workers to see how their paycheque compares to their colleagues? If the answer’s yes, then it’s a problem you need to address. Until businesses start admitting that there is a marked difference between how much their male employees earn compared to female employees in the same level of role, they’ll remain stuck in the past, with the goal of being an equal employer a mere fantasy.
Despite the rather bleak report that gender equality hasn’t shifted in the UK in over 10 years, there are some positives for women in the workplace. It’s welcome news that the UK’s largest companies have doubled the amount of women board members in the last seven years. Even so, there’s still a long way to go – as a nation, and globally – for men and women to be equal in the workplace.
Gender equality tends to be centred around the disadvantages women face at work, and improving standards for them. But this misses the point – to have a truly equal business which supports and treats every employee fairly, your policies and culture need to enable the same opportunities for everyone regardless of being male, female, or LGBTQ. Focus on improving the four key areas we’ve covered in your own business to promote a fairer, happier workforce.
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