Three signs your business is addressing the gender gap

International womens day panel at the Radisson Blu hotel in Birmingham

The concept of gender equality in the workplace and what businesses are doing to address gender inequality is prevalent today. Historically, men have dominated at board levels across all sectors and industries, influencing the pay and bonus levels for employees and progression within the business. Since the development of this subject in recent years, companies are finding new ways they can help achieve gender diversity and bridge the gender pay gap.

Here we discuss findings from the latest Empowering Women in the Workplace event led by a panel of five successful female professionals sharing their thoughts around gender inequality and what businesses can do to help resolve these discrepancies.

Encouraging development and support structures

Mentoring can be a highly effective strategy for achieving progression within an organisation. It was highlighted that 94% of women saw mentoring schemes as a key approach to achieve growth in their current role, proving that mentoring is an encouraging initiative for women to pursue the next step in their career.

Amanda Murphy, Head of Commercial Banking (UK) at HSBC highlights "development schemes such as mentoring should be seen as a place to go and seek advice, not a promotion. Businesses should be careful not to mislead women. Mentoring alone cannot get you a promotion, but it is a great opportunity to achieve sponsorship which is more than likely to lead to a promotion.”

Mentoring alone cannot get you a promotion, but it is a great opportunity to achieve sponsorship which is more than likely to lead to a promotion

Development programmes and schemes such as mentoring are positive signs towards gender equality in the workplace, providing the opportunity for both genders, not just women, to take part in something to equally earn a promotion or bonus.

Amanda continues, “gender doesn’t matter in mentoring, you have to find someone you trust and can build a relationship with. It is through these relationships that you can develop as a person and achieve progression - you need to create links and be recognised, no matter if you are male or female.”

Businesses need to introduce structures and programmes that enable women to succeed. These structures do not fundamentally change those at senior levels, a structure needs to be adapted to help women get to the top.  

Employing more women at board/senior levels

Addressing the number of women employed or promoted to senior or executive levels is fundamental for addressing the gender pay gap. Typically, 80% of board level positions across all UK business are held by men, a figure that varies significantly by industry.  

The disparities between gender pay across UK companies have been well aired and have become a real cause of concern for many senior female professionals who feel their employer is preventing them from reaching their full potential in comparison to more junior male colleagues. Companies need to achieve gender diversity to address the issue and one way of doing so is employing women into more senior roles.

The legal industry has historically been recognised as being very heavily male dominated. However, recent years have seen a 20-25% decrease in top level board members being all male, showing huge signs of improvements for the legal industry and breaking through the glass ceiling.

Increased focus on female quotas

Organisations are making conscious efforts to increase the number of female hires across the business, not just at senior level. This introduction of a ‘female quota’ is an encouraging factor towards gender equality, highlighting that businesses recognise the gender gap and have applied these quotas as an initial solution.

Parminder Fells, COO - Integration & Alignment at Deutsche Bank commented that ‘there needs to be a balance - without some kind of target or quota in place, nothing will change fast. But firms need to invest.

Developing female talent and building support structures so they are ready for their next step up is essential for businesses today, you can’t just promote female staff and then step away. It doesn’t help anyone to see female colleagues ‘fail’ because they were promoted just on the basis of hitting a quota.”

Jo Hanley, WiBF and Lloyds Ringfencing highlights, “As part of its Helping Britain Prosper commitments, Lloyd’s has set a target to aim for 40% of senior positions to held by women by 2020, which is a great initiative to encourage women to go for those more senior roles.

However it is important to make sure that the person appointed into any position is capable of performing that role, it has to be the right candidate for the role regardless of gender.

I believe it is positive for businesses to have set goals and targets to focus minds and support the delivery of gender diversity and equality.”

Companies today are becoming proactive by incorporating new gender focused initiatives and values to help bridge the gender pay gap and improve diversity. Providing workplace diversity and encouraging female empowerment in business can attract top talent in the market.

Contact Robert Walters today for further advice and assistance on attracting high calibre professionals to help up-skill your business.

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