Despite the strides we have made in gender equality, female workers still get paid less than their male counterparts, with women significantly underrepresented in senior management roles. Discrimination and unequal pay is illegal, but the facts show that we still face huge obstacles in equal opportunities, and employers play a vital role in overcoming these hurdles. The glass ceiling is hard, but surely breakable, and through a number of actions, your company can cast the stones to the invisible barriers.
1. Transparency in the pay gap
The gender pay gap remains a prominent issue, and the clearest example of gender equality at the workplace. Openness and transparency with pay figures in your company is the first step in tackling any workplace inequalities identified. Assessing where men and women do work of equal value and re-structuring the difference between those unjustified gaps is one start. However to really understand the causes, you need to reflect on the figures more broadly.
Transparency will cast light on the need for change, but like the small nudge of the ball, is only the very beginning of closing the pay gap. In most cases gender pay disparity cannot be resolved by a simple matter of adjusting pay figures. The results are not necessarily that of unequal pay, but reflects a much wider field of failures in balancing opportunities for women.
2. Acknowledge and challenge your own bias
In order to overcome gender inequality we must address our own bias. Gender related bias that hold women back can include outright discrimination to deep-rooted unconscious attitudes. The normalisation of everyday sexism has lead to an invisible gender bias that we often don’t recognise. Human beings don’t know how to be wholly unbiased; from the classroom to the boardrooms – at an early age, we are conditioned to believe that girls are this way and boys are that way. It’s about challenging these ‘natural’ thoughts by examining, questioning and having open conversations.
Basic anthropology tells us that groups tend to recruit new members who are similar to themselves. So a predominantly male field will often choose a male candidate. This is an influential factor in why women are significantly underrepresented in traditionally male-dominated areas, and senior positions. Changing our bias in recruiting is integral, and admitting our own bias is an important step to a more open, diverse and fair workplace.
This is everyone’s issue – men and women, and extends to women’s own limiting self-beliefs.
3. Foster the next female leaders
Although men and women have an equal level of ambition early on in their careers, the absence of strong role models and mentors throughout a woman’s professional development can have a significant impact on how she views her own capabilities and career prospects later in life. If they don’t believe they can reach a leading position at high level, then they don’t invest the time to structure their career plan to attain it. Introduce coaching and mentoring programs to provide women with opportunities to assess professional growth, develop their leadership skills, and identify a strategy to achieve this.
Although it may be tempting to solve gender inequality by concentrating on women, gender inclusiveness should involve both men and women, as initiatives involving only half of the population will likely have reduced results.
4. Support parents
Recent research has shown that the gender pay gap is closing for young workers, but widens severely among working mothers as they effectively suffer a pay penalty. One of the major barriers that prevent women from reaching to the top of their career is the lack of childcare support. Again this ranges from complete stigma to deep-seated traditions in the role of mothers. Employer’s play a vital role in supporting mothers; work together to agree on a fair and balanced workplace goal that will drive productivity, whilst allowing flexibility and remote working where possible.
Progression and promotions are considerably more difficult to achieve when you take time off, which has a disproportionate effect on women who continue to hold the lion’s share of childcare responsibility. To relieve working mothers of the domestic and childcare burden, parental leave for fathers should be promoted. Not only will this allow mothers to invest more time in their careers, but research has shown that fathers want to be more engaged and involved in child care duties.
Like all the previous points, gender equality involves both men and women; supporting female talent, and working together, equally.