Gender equality in the workplace is one of the most significant issues facing employers right now. Most companies recognise the need for gender-balanced teams, especially at the top of the organisation, but some can struggle to understand the best way to achieve this balance. Here, we outline four ways you can promote and improve gender diversity at your organisation.
Leadership and mentoring
Gender equality starts with Senior Leadership and is often linked to the culture of an organisation.
As men tend to hold the most senior roles in boardrooms, then a cultural shift is what’s needed. Unfortunately, the statistics indicate there has actually been a fall in the number of women in senior leadership and management roles in Britain’s biggest companies. According to research by Cranfield University in 2018, there are just 30 women in full-time executive roles at FTSE 250 firms, down from 38 the previous year.
It’s essential that senior managers are trained in gender equality and are on board with it. Mary Lynch, Senior Consultant at OMT Global, reiterates the importance of ensuring clearly-defined roles for men, when it comes to supporting women in leadership. “The OMT Global Women in Leadership programme outlines how men need to participate in these programmes too, because women can’t make these changes on their own. Men also need to recognise that they have to support women and gender diversity.”
Some companies tend to focus all their effort on women – however the key is ensuring both men and women have opportunities to progress and succeed. Lynch warns that men can sometimes feel disenfranchised by all the focus on women. “I’m a big believer in equality – I don’t think you should just focus on women. You should be bringing men and women together and trying to get them to understand and appreciate both perspectives.”
Mentoring can be an effective way of supporting both men and women throughout their careers. However, don’t be tempted to match all women with female mentors, and all men with male mentors. “Some female leaders want male mentors, because in some organisations it is extremely male dominated, so they feel they would benefit from understanding the power structures and decision makers,” remarks Lynch.
In essence, it’s about ensuring the leaders in your organisation develop a culture of gender equality, which starts at the top and filters down through the organisation. It’s also about supporting women to advance in their careers and fill more of those leadership roles.
“In my experience, those with senior teams that are gender balanced, seem like much better places to work,” says Lynch. “You see more balance between the intellectual decision-making versus people impact, as well as greater levels of engagement in the organisation.”
An efficient recruitment process is key to tackling gender equality. A good place to start is to look at your sourcing strategy, and think about where you are advertising for roles to ensure you reach as many diverse candidates as possible. Plus, consider the language used in job ads and job descriptions, to avoid gender bias.
Conscious recruitment is also important, which means knowing what your current gender profile is, and why you may want to change that.
“Organisations need to be very clear on their diversity profile, and what exactly they are trying to do when recruiting,” says Lynch. “It’s not enough to say we need more women in these positions, there needs to be a very clear business strategy behind that, and recruitment needs to link to it.”
When it comes to the interview stage, ensure you ask the same questions to all candidates to ensure it is fair for both men and women.
Also, consider any unconscious biases around recruitment. “If your profile is not the way you want it, and you’re seeing that something is happening at the recruitment stage, you may be unconsciously or inadvertently discriminating, so you need to find out where that is coming from,” comments Lynch. If necessary, provide unconscious bias training for your hiring managers.
The gender pay gap is a huge and complex topic, however it’s also one that needs to be addressed. In the UK, all organisations with more than 250 employees are required by law to report on their gender pay gap and are under increasing pressure to demonstrate what steps they are taking to close the gap.
Many organisations recognise they have a gender pay gap due to a lack of women in senior leadership roles, but there are often other, very real reasons for the gap. Show your commitment to addressing the pay gap by conducting an analysis to understand what is driving it and whether there is any gender bias involved. If there is a pay gap in your organisation, demonstrate to your employees that you are committed to delivering meaningful change over time.
Also, make sure you have a formal pay structure in place and that you are transparent about levels of pay, to remove any secrecy and help eliminate any bias.
Flexible working and work-life balance
A lack of flexible working options in the workplace can be a huge barrier preventing women from progressing in their career. You therefore need to consider what measures you can put in place to promote a positive work-life balance, such as flexitime, remote working, help with paying for childcare, and so on.
Also, flexible working doesn’t just include women – it is about parental equality and allowing flexible working options for both women and men. Supporting working mothers and fathers by, for example, enhancing maternity, paternity and shared parental pay and leave, will help to improve gender equality as it can enable mothers to focus on their careers, as well as support fathers who want to share childcare responsibilities.
“Many companies will have flexible working as standard, so it’s not explicitly linked, but if you want to hire people who want a better work-life balance, you will need to be thinking about these practices,” remarks Lynch.