As it was International Women’s Day recently, I thought it would be appropriate to blog about something related to it.
Gender inequality still exists in the work place. Some issues are obvious, such as poor female representation in senior roles, and other issues are hidden, one of which is pay. Lots of things have happened since the Equal Pay Act of 1970, nearly 40 years ago! On one hand, it does seem disappointing to think that we are still discussing the same problem 40 years on, but the recent amendment added to the Enterprise and Employment Bill indicates there is now a political push to improve gender pay equality at work. If this bill is passed, both small and large businesses will be forced to declare gender pay gaps. How this naming and shaming will affect pay remains to be seen. 200 companies initially signed up, on a voluntary basis, to report pay gaps but only 5 did so. What does this say about the appetite of business to implement equality? Will the transparency this bill proposes change the underlying culture, does it go far enough?
In an article published by the CIPD (link here), they give the main tips that businesses can employ to ensure female equality. The article raises some really relevant points for business owners and senior managers, but still leaves the question as to what people who work within the business can do to influence change. Whilst not everyone is in a position of power, it does still seem reasonable to suggest that we all have a level of influence, and that we all have opportunities either within a business or, when dealing with a business, to champion some of these points. Perhaps through awareness, we can help business to adopt some of the tips, and really start to tackle gender equality.
Using the ideas raised in the CIPD article, here are some suggestions of how each of us can make a difference.
Although there are gender equality issues within our business world, it doesn’t necessarily follow that every business will suffer from it. Don’t assume that every business won’t be able to adapt to changes in your circumstances or value the impact of your leadership skills. Most importantly, don’t use the issues identified as a mental barrier to limit your own ambition.
Does your workplace help you to network with other women in business or have a specific leadership programme? Could they become involved with any existing programmes or even set one up? Participating in such programmes is not only beneficial for you and your personal skills, but also for the company itself in exposure, an increasingly skilled workforce and “buy in” from senior leaders. Could you bring these ideas to your existing workplace or the businesses you interact with? Finally, how can you broaden your own network?
There is a call for businesses to become more agile as the shape of the workforce changes. Companies need to react, making sure they do not lose talented women and men from the workplace because of the amount or type of hours they can offer. Instead, by offering part time positions, companies retain your skills and experience, which may otherwise be lost, or worse, utilised by a competitor. It has been shown that part time workers have less absence, improved output and better morale. Restricting part time workers to lower paying jobs on the basis of the number of hours worked rather than ability seems to be a out-dated notice, one which no longer fits with today’s 24/7 work environment. What can you do to promote flexible working in your workplace?
Set an example, lead the way
“Be the change that you wish to see in the world”, said Ghandi. Demand the changes that will support equality and your career, but also support people just starting out in their careers or those further down the career progression ladder. Even the smallest change has an impact and causes a ripple.
Although much of the ability and power to change comes from senior figures, maybe we could argue that much of the will and demand to change comes from people just like you and me. Maybe the question we really need to ask is; what will you do?