7 ways your business can do more to address gender inequality
#BalanceforBetter is the theme for this Friday’s International Women’s Day. Like many popular campaign hashtags it’s a simple phrase with a powerful message – everyone has a part to play from grassroots through to worldwide action. It is not one cause for one segment of society, but a collective campaign for men, women and children to challenge social norms and instigate change for a fairer and more balanced world within the workplace and daily life.
By 5th April 2019, all organisations that employ 250 people or more are required to report and publish their gender pay gap. Last month, Barclays had already reported the largest median gender pay gap of the UK’s biggest banks at 43.5%. Sceptics suggest that many businesses will delay their reports until the last minute in the hope their results will go unnoticed with an even bigger company hitting the headlines. Although, a third of businesses have blamed the delay on the regulations being difficult to understand.
However, it is not only in people’s wage packets that inequality exists and there are many things businesses can do in order to affect change.
Here are our 7 recommendations to bring better balance to an imbalanced world.
1. Ensure pay structure is fair for all
During the recruitment process, stop asking “What do you think your salary should be?” or “What did you earn in your last role?”. Women tend to ask for less than men and if their previous employee had a large pay gap you would be taking on the same divide. Instead, you should provide a fair and transparent salary range and offer remuneration based on capability.
2. Make sure all employees have the same access to opportunities
If men are more likely to spend time with senior executives, work on the most important projects or meet the most valuable clients, they will be more impressive candidates for promotion. Companies should have a process in place to ensure all employees have the opportunity to meet the same standards as they progress through their careers.
3. Promote equality through your business social media channels
Many clients, customers, staff and future employees will follow your social pages so post your #IWD2019 messages on social media with strong messages about forging a #BalanceforBetter. Make sure your communications are setting the right example, ensuring you use diverse images on your website and brochures.
4. Stop gender bias language in verbal and non-verbal communications
Bias often occurs on a subconscious level and people aren’t even aware they are using gender-bias language. But in verbal and non-verbal communication it is essential for businesses to ensure they are using neutral terminology and grammar so you are not alienating or ignoring an entire gender.
It is also important to call out any gender-bias insults or stereotypes which have been ingrained into people’s speech. Even chats between colleagues in communal areas should be inclusive. Phrases like “man-up” or “stop being such a girl” roll off the tongue for so many people. Without highlighting why this terminology is wrong, these phrases will continue to be used not only in the office but with friends, family and in front of future generations. If you notice gender stereotype conversations occurring you may need to consider implementing a brief training session or workshop.
5. Employers need to quash harassment
One in four women say they are subject to sexual harassment at work. All managers have a responsibility to step in to prevent sexual harassment. Incivility is a gateway to harassment, and workplaces must address these issues. Any reports of harassment must be dealt with seriously and fairly. If you don’t already have one, write a bullying and harassment policy and make certain all staff have read it and understand the processes involved.
6. Team meetings
Team meetings can be a highly positive environment that benefits your business growth, or it can inadvertently promote gender and social stereotypes. Ensure that everyone has an opportunity to speak and be heard. Pay attention to whether decisions and action points are fair. Are ideas from a female colleague consistently shot down? Does a male colleague take over an idea from a female counterpart? Are action points distributed fairly and do they provide an opportunity for both male and female coworkers to work on potentially career-enhancing projects?
The most effective team meetings are those that facilitate a truly open forum for ideas and action points.
7. Train employees with workshops and free resources
As mentioned in Tip 4, it is important to address and educate gender-bias language within the workplace and there are many ways a business can address gender inequality from both a strategic/policy driven perspective and through the education of employees. It is important you can identify where the business can affect the most change and if there are particular issues amongst levels of management or “on the shop floor” you may need to introduce a full range of resources and educational workshops to instigate change.
There are many free resources available online which can be used or shared amongst the team. The Mayor of London’s office has introduced a free resource called Our Time – Supporting Future Leaders. It tackles gender inequality in the workplace and breaks down barriers that prevent women from reaching the top. The online toolkit includes an implementation guide and supporting delivery materials to help pair participants, deliver face to face events and develop a communications plan.
It is important for businesses, and every individual within the business, to take responsibility for addressing gender inequality. Whether it is a big change such as closing the pay gap to 0% or addressing a gender bias phrase that is used around the water-cooler. Everyone can do their part.
Gloria Steinem, world-renowned feminist, journalist and activist has summed it up nicely: “The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organisation but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.”
If businesses, and society as a whole, becomes successful in finding a better balance between male and female roles in the workplace then maybe we can also bridge other gaps such as race, religion, age and disability for a more balanced world.