March is the month of International Women’s Day, an annual celebration of women’s achievements across the globe.
Despite this, gender inequality continues to be a prominent issue in modern-day society.
Research in 2020 by global HR and payroll firm ADP found that over a quarter of UK workers have experienced discrimination and that women remain most concerned about sexism.
Prejudice towards gender, age and race and age is still commonplace in UK businesses, so what can be done to change this?
The role of promoting equality in the workplace is the responsibility of everyone, but in order to get to that stage businesses need to ensure that equality sits at the heart of its company culture.
Ongoing training on all equality issues should be common practice. This proactive, educational approach will help to ensure the right conversations are being had amongst staff, challenging unconscious bias and indirect discrimination. It encourages openness by tackling taboo subjects head on, meaning staff should feel more comfortable challenging or coming forward about discrimination.
Here are 6 other ways to promote equality in your organisation:
- Start with Recruitment
Think about the language used in your job descriptions, adverts, and application forms. Check these documents for any unconscious bias and use gender neutral language as much as possible to prevent deterring any minority group from applying for the position. During the interview and selection phase businesses should have a diverse panel. Not only does this help mitigate unconscious bias but it helps showcase your commitment to diversity. Every candidate should be treated the same and the decision should be based on a candidate’s ability to do the job.
- Equal Pay
It’s unacceptable in business today to have discriminatory pay arrangements. By law, any business that employs over 250 employees must publish their gender pay gap, but many smaller businesses are doing this as a way of showing their commitment to equal pay. Organisations with significant pay gaps are now likely to be publicly scrutinised. The equal pay law covers all aspects of pay and terms of employment including basic pay, working hours, pension, performance related pay, employee benefits, redundancy pay and more. All workers, whether they are full time, part time, agency workers or apprentices, have the right to be paid the same as their peers for equivalent work.
- Flexible working
Flexible working is intrinsically linked to gender equality. How? It helps to attract and retain diverse talent and it boosts the number of females in leadership roles. It’s no longer about working from home every now and then, it’s about providing a range of workstyles including part-time, term-time, flexitime, remote working, job-sharing and compressed hours. Despite the fact that 70% of UK employees wanted more flexible working options, more than half said they felt nervous requesting this at interview, fearing it would hamper their chances of securing the role. We are still in a culture that praises the working of long hours, yet for people, male or female who have caring responsibilities this simply isn’t an option. Evidence shows that 75% of caregivers are women, so implementing policies that allow employees to work around other commitments could be a real game changer in terms of gender equality.
31% of women who took a career break after having children said they didn’t want to but had to because of a lack of workplace flexibility. Furthermore, when returning to the workplace, women are more likely to face lower paid, less secure roles. Taking a career break to have children is also compounding the pension pay gap, with the average women in her twenties predicted to retire with £100,000 less in her pension than her male peers. Enabling parents to share parental leave and to be paid equally is one step in the right direction. This has been successfully rolled out in Finland and sends a powerful message that all parents, from all types of families, are equal. Under new rules, all Finnish mothers and fathers will both get nearly seven months’ paid leave and all references to maternity and paternity leave are being scrapped.
- Diverse Leadership
Not only does a diverse leadership team bring new perspectives and experiences to the table, but it also helps to inspire employees from minority groups to strive for success. Being able to identify with a manager or leader helps foster a culture of inclusion, security and understanding. Businesses should ensure their leadership team is not only visually diverse, but that the personalities are diverse. One reason many leadership teams lack diversity is because a particular type of individual may be promoted more often. People with different ways of thinking can be overlooked for promotion. Conversely, having different opinions in a leadership team which challenge one another can help a business to thrive.
- Choose to challenge
Employers should empower their staff to call out inequality. Choose to challenge was the theme of International Women’s Day and it reminds us that we all have a role to play in making the world more inclusive. By providing ongoing, regular training on equality and encouraging open discussion around the topic, employees should be able to identify and report any issues that arise. It is important that businesses have a clear and transparent grievance process that all staff are aware of so that they know how to raise any concerns and feel supported in the process.
A diverse and equal workforce makes for business success. Employees are more engaged, relationships with customers are stronger and teams are more innovative.
It’s easy to implement processes around diversity and equality however putting them into action on a day-to-day basis is what’s required for a truly equal workforce.
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