What Can Employers Do to Improve Gender Equality in Their Workplaces?

What Can Employers Do to Improve Gender Equality in Their Workplaces?

This week has once again brought gender inequality to the forefront with female celebrities at the Golden Globes awards show ceremony wearing black to show solidarity with victims of sexual harassment and gender inequality.

To highlight gender inequality further Will & Grace star Debra Messing used her Golden Globes red carpet appearance to criticize E! for not paying male and female employees equally in an interview with the network.

In the UK there was the well-publicized resignation of Carrie Gracie, the international editor for China, over pay disparity. The pay disclosure revealed Gracie was paid much less than two male international editors and she has resigned because she did not want to “collude” in unlawful pay discrimination.

Gender Equality in the Workplace

Employers have a legal duty to pay equal pay for equal work, regardless of the gender of the employees. There is, however, widespread recognition that there is a pay gap between the genders and the government introduced the gender pay gap reporting requirements to force businesses to take action in this area. It is thought gender pay gap reports may lead to more complaints, grievances and potentially tribunal claims about the fairness, and equality, of internal pay practices. A toolkit recently released by the Government Equalities Office contains actions organizations can take to improve gender equality in their workplace.  

How It Can Be Tackled

Gender equality should take place in every part of the workplace, from start to finish of an employee’s journey within the company. Targeting the recruitment process as a diverse mix of candidates, through use of different platforms, will encourage equality and diversity from the outset. Advertisements should be gender-neutral to avoid alienating those of a specific gender, and any bias in the selection process can be removed by introducing objective scoring, skills-based hiring and having at least two people involved in the interview process.

Job adverts which state the role is flexible at the outset or that flexible hours will be considered will improve gender equality as it may encourage applications from individuals with personal or home responsibilities, such as females with childcare needs. Having a flexible working policy which is applied fairly and reasonably across all members of staff will support, and increase, gender equality in the workplace. The culture and mindset of the employer are also important here; those who view flexible working as a positive means of supporting staff are more likely to retain their talent and will see improved equality across the workforce.

Supporting staff with caring and parental responsibilities will also contribute towards improved gender equality. Where finances allow, offering staff increased rates of family pay over and above statutory payments, e.g. enhanced maternity pay, will provide workplace support to those with families and increase the likelihood of the employee staying with the business. Implementing a clear and straightforward shared parental leave policy, and having a positive attitude towards this leave, will also improve gender equality as it provides support for male employees who wish to have an equal role in the upbringing of families. In turn, this will see more female employees being able to choose the amount of time they have off work depending on what is best for their family.

Pay is, as ever, an important factor for employees. Pay should be set dependent on the job role and a formal pay structure can be introduced to improve the transparency around pay levels; removing concerns about discriminatory pay rates. All decisions on pay, such as pay increases, should be made objectively and the employee can be informed of the reasoning behind the decision to avoid any misunderstanding or complaints. An annual equal pay audit could be introduced to assess whether gender bias is taking place, either consciously or unconsciously.

Author: Kate Palmer CIPD BA (Hons) is the Head of Advisory at Peninsula and a member of our senior leadership team. With a specialist background in facilities management in the NHS (public and private sectors), Kate offers a wealth of employment law experience. And, with deep knowledge and long-term enthusiasm for employment law, Kate shares her expertise by writing regular columns in major publications like the Huffington Post, the Sun, HR Magazine and more.

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