Creating a gender balanced workplace

8 Mar 2019 By Rachel Collins

To mark International Women’s Day, Rachel Collins outlines her top tips for employers on implementing effective gender equality practices

There are several key areas that employers can focus on to bring about positive and tangible changes in the workplace to enable both male and female employees to thrive on an equal footing.

Close the gender pay gap

It has been well documented that many businesses have a pay gap between men and women, with 78 per cent of large firms reporting a pay gap in favour of men in 2018. ‘Easy wins’ for employers to close this gap may include:

  • Avoid asking candidates what they were paid in their last job. Instead have pay ranges for each position to ensure candidates are being paid the market rate for the role recruited for, rather than making decisions based on salary history
  • Create a more transparent and open environment where employees are aware of pay ranges for each position
  • Review working practices to ensure employees are being paid equally for work of equal value

Promote shared parental leave

It remains the case in the UK that childcare responsibilities are undertaken predominantly by mothers, leading women to take more time out of work and suffer from significant hurdles when returning to work and reaching top positions. Although shared parental leave is available to all parents, approximately only 2 per cent of couples are taking this up, with many men reluctant to take time off for financial and cultural reasons. To address this imbalance, employers should:

  • Actively promote shared parental leave within the workplace and endorse an environment where it is culturally acceptable for males to undertake childcare responsibilities. This will allow both parents to invest time in their careers while simultaneously enabling parents to take a more equal responsibility for childcare duties
  • Consider matching enhanced rates of pay for maternity and paternity leave to avoid one parent being put at a financial disadvantage for undertaking childcare responsibilities. This will provide parents with a real choice when considering how they wish to structure their childcare duties and career ambitions

Ensure good workplace wellbeing

Although pay is an important constituent in achieving gender equality, promoting a workplace that is mindful of employees’ work-life balance is key to retaining talented individuals. Employers should therefore:

  • Ensure employees are rewarded on the basis of outcomes achieved and not hours worked
  • Offer employees equal rights to flexible working, such as part-time work, working remotely and job shares
  • Ensure equal access to wellbeing initiatives, such as access to an experienced mentor
  • Train all managers in gender equality to allow women to progress at the same rate as their male colleagues

Make sure the recruitment process is consistent

The recruitment process is a key area where gender inequality is prevalent. In order to help eliminate this, employers should:

  • Assess CVs with names removed to avoid any unconscious bias
  • Avoid asking candidates to explain multi-year gaps in their employment history (that are usually explained by family circumstances or illness)
  • Ask all candidates the same questions to avoid scenarios where, for example, only women are asked what hours they are able to work 
  • Ask questions in the same way to all candidates to avoid different phrasing prompting different answers

By carefully evaluating each stage of the employment lifecycle, businesses can establish a workplace culture that is focused on the creation of gender balance, for the benefit of the entire workforce.

Rachel Collins is an associate at Stevens & Bolton LLP

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