Forty-five years on from the introduction of the Equal Pay Act in 1975, you would have thought that gender discrimination in the workplace would be a thing of the distant past. Although women are in the strongest position they’ve ever been in terms of career progression and opportunities, it would appear that we are not quite there yet, as many women report that they still do not feel that they are treated in the same manner as their male counterparts.
In 2015, there is still a significant pay gap between men and women, with women in full-time work earning 18% less than men in the same roles, despite them being more likely to have a degree.
women are less likely than men to be associated with leadership positions in the UK. At this time 43% of large firms have no women on their board and only 34.7% of smaller firms have female directors; however the Lord Davies’ 2011 review called for 25% of directors to be female by the end of 2015, so this is an encouraging step.
In a recent discussion at the #TruLondon event in February, a woman working in the recruitment industry spoke of her personal experience of gender in the workplace, stating that her female manager received a somewhat negative response to any issue of authority and her male colleagues were quick to label her as bossy, whereas it is unlikely that the same conclusion would be drawn about similar behaviour from a male boss. Gender inequality is a two way street however, and in response to her remark it was suggested that a man who does not behave assertively will in turn have his masculinity questioned.
So this poses the question, what can be done to stop this gender equality and stereotyping in the workplace?
Familiarize yourself with anti-discrimination laws:
As an employer, you should have a thorough understanding of the laws in place to prevent discrimination in the workplace, for example equal pay, harassment, victimization and direct discrimination based on sex. By doing so, you will be in a better position to administer them.
Create a strict policy against sexual harassment:
Sexual harassment strictly should not be tolerated and clear guidelines must be put in place to ensure staff understand what this involves. Make it easy for employees to report any instances of harassment and inform them of the professional consequences for offenders.
Equal pay and opportunities:
Equal work, should equal pay. Establish a policy that ensures that both your male and female staff are paid equally for the same role, and that they are given the same opportunities in terms of recruitment and promotion.
Provide training to managers:
By providing training to those in a management position for how best to deal with gender equality in the workplace, they will be better equipped for tackling any issues that arise. You should educate them on how to identify and handle any form of discrimination may take place in a work environment and how to prevent it from happening in the future.
Acknowledge the success of employees in the company, both male and female. It’s good to show appreciation for the hard work that is put in from your staff, and even more important to note achievements from all members of staff equally, regardless of their position in the company, gender, race, etc.
Assign roles or jobs based on ability, not gender:
It’s a common perception that women are generally better suited to support type roles, whereas men will excel in leadership positions; however it is these kinds of stereotypes that form the basis of gender discrimination at work and action must take place to prevent it happening.
The hiring and allocation of work must to be conducted on the basis of an individual’s abilities and character, regardless of whether they are male or female and the preference of customers, clients or other employees is not a legitimate and protected reason to treat employees differently according to gender.