‘Balance for Better’ is the chosen theme of this year’s International Women’s Day and organisations may choose to utilise this to create a greater gender balance in their workplace.
By now most employers should hopefully understand that it is unlawful to pay women less than men working in the same position. However, there may be less obvious instances where women are unfairly paid less than male counterparts, despite not working in the exact same role. Individuals must be paid equally for work that is similar in nature, rated as equivalent and of equal value. Therefore, it will be important to cast a critical eye over company pay practices on this basis to ensure a truly gender balanced workplace.
How employers advertise and recruit for jobs also has a big influence on the gender balance of an organisation. Adverts should be inclusive and employers must avoid using gender-specific terms or simply refusing applicants based on their gender. As the decision makers, interviewers have a big role to play and should be trained on the dangers of unconscious bias and provided with a clear checklist of skills and experience to prevent hiring decisions being influenced by personal prejudice.
Those who want to address a gender imbalance should take a look at their working environment and consider if it is welcoming and inclusive. More and more employees are choosing to work at places that have a positive company culture and it is important that female employees feel that they belong. This means employers should work to create a supportive culture, that actively discourages offensive workplace banter and toxic masculinity.
Employers should also take a look at their workplace policies and consider how truly inclusive these are. Creating a gender balance is about more than making sure there are the exact same rules for men and women and is instead about ensuring women are not disadvantaged in the workplace. This means employers should not shy away from issues such as providing extra support to working mothers by considering enhanced maternity leave and being as reasonable as possible with flexible working requests.
A common criticism of last year’s gender pay gap reports was the distinct lack of women in leadership positions and it is often suggested that a glass ceiling exists, preventing women from reaching top positions. Having said this, simply promoting a female manager as a token gesture will do little to truly address any gender imbalance and employers will be better served mentoring female talent and giving them equal opportunity to grow and develop within the organisation. This commitment to meritocracy will not go unnoticed and create, a more sustainable, gender balanced workplace.
Progressive employers should not be afraid to take an honest look at their existing practices and consider where these could be improved to create a more gender balanced workplace.