The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day on 8 March is Gender Balance. What does this mean to women in the workplace? It might be achieving a better balance of women in senior roles, that women feel they are treated in a more balanced way at work, or that they feel more balance in their working lives.
We’ve put together four different approaches that you can take to make a positive change to gender balance in your organisation.
Gender Pay Gap and Recruitment
Next month will see gender pay gap reporting taking place for the second time. In 2018, the figures revealed that 77% of the reporting organisations paid men more than women. A key reason given for this figure was the lack of women in senior roles and in higher paid industries.
It would be surprising for this to have changed significantly in only one year. However, we all know that there are instances where women are paid less than men when doing exactly the same or comparable jobs. Getting more women into senior and higher paid roles is likely to take some years to filter up. Taking the required action for objective benchmarking of pay and balancing out pay in the existing workforce also won’t happen overnight. However, you can make a positive difference the next time you are recruiting.
It’s worth remembering that asking women what they are being paid now and making an offer in line with that could be a way of perpetuating any existing gender pay gap. It’s better to benchmark well, and if you need to be sure that their expectations are in line with yours early in the process – then just ask them what their salary expectation is.
Coaching is what happens when you are in the room and sponsorship is what happens when you’re not in the room”
In order to get more women into those higher paid roles we need to be creating the right environment for women to progress. Coaching, mentoring and training all have their place as career developers. What’s often overlooked is the less formal benefit of sponsorship as a career accelerator.
Many successful people talk about how having a boss or business leader who promoted their skills and achievements around the organisation was critical to their confidence and the opportunities they were given to progress. It’s often said that “coaching is what happens when you are in the room and sponsorship is what happens when you’re not in the room”. So getting your leaders and managers to give some thought to how they consciously promote the ideas and the work of talented women in their teams is a great way to achieve change.
Women themselves have a part to play in getting sponsorship too, so make sure you also encourage your female employees to seek out feedback and look for ways to develop their reputation in the organisation.
Thinking longer term, if you’re in an industry which is generally male dominated, getting some of your inspiring women out into schools and colleges to talk about their careers and the opportunities available is a great way to influence the younger generation about their careers, and generate the female talent pipeline for the future.
In a recent survey, 35% of 2,000 women interviewed said that they had been sexually harassed at work. 80% of the victims didn’t raise a complaint about the harassment, mostly because they believed that nothing would be done, or that by making a complaint they may harm their careers in some way. For some, making a complaint actually resulted in them being subject to negative rumours or even removed.
Whilst most organisations have policies which state that they will not tolerate harassment, especially since #MeToo, it’s clear that this isn’t always proving to be effective. To stop women being subjected to such treatment and prevent your organisation finding itself in the midst of damaged relationships and reputations, it’s essential to ensure that your business leaders are fully behind dealing with the issue and to educate your employees about their responsibilities in relation to respect at work (this actually applies to all types of harassment).
You can provide face to face training courses or even use e-learning if that works better for your workplace. The important outcome is that women feel confident about raising a complaint and your managers feel confident about handling such complaints, so making sure that managers are given a solid grounding in managing these issues is critical.
In the event that something does go wrong, it can sometimes be helpful to have the matter investigated by someone external to the organisation. As well as looking at the situation and producing findings from a neutral position, a good report can also provide valuable insights and recommendations to take forwards regardless of the outcome of the complaint itself.
Menopausal women are the fastest growing demographic in the workforce. Unfortunately, although the menopause is a natural part of a woman’s life, it’s symptoms can be sufficiently serious to have a debilitating effect upon their work and everyday activities. It’s estimated that there are 3 ½ million women over the age of 50 currently in work (a rise of more than 50 per cent in the last 30 years) and this number is increasing. If we add in perimenopause and early menopause, that’s a lot of women experiencing what can be very significant symptoms.
Despite being very knowledgeable and experienced, women experiencing the worst symptoms can lose their confidence at work and their managers can also struggle to understand what is happening. This is where taking the opportunity to put in place a menopause policy to guide your managers, highlight simple adjustments that may be appropriate and give reassurance to employees that you are supportive can be very helpful.
If you would like a copy of a template policy to adapt for your organisation and start the ball rolling, you can download one here. There are also many excellent menopause seminars available to increase awareness for women themselves and their managers.
It’s worth mentioning here that providing balance to men can help the gender balance for women. There’s a lot of focus on flexible working and family leave arrangements for women, but if we truly believe in gender balance then surely we should be supporting flexibility and leave arrangements for men to manage their caring responsibilities too.