Equal pay is hitting the headlines, amidst reports that the gender pay gap is widening once more. Theories abound as to why that may be — discriminatory practices, women returning to work after maternity leave (or not), different life goals and hard-wired biological differences, to name but a few. The trouble is, for every study attempting to explain the phenomenon, there’s another drawing the opposite conclusion.
It’s worth getting to the bottom of this though. Various studies show that gender and ethnic diversity at board level leads to increased profitability. So if you’re looking to make your organisation a great place for people of all genders to work, you need a way to cut through the subjective noise and put in policies that will definitely work.
Identify and quantify the problem
Your first step is to establish whether you have a problem and if you employ more than 250 people, you’re obliged to by law. You’ll want to look at annual pay, with and without bonuses, but also pro-rata that to come up with an hourly rate that takes into account the number of hours worked.
Statistical analysis is a great way to flag up potential issues, but it’s vital to understand employees’ daily emotions, aspirations and challenges. For example, you might find that women returning from maternity leave struggle to balance work with childcare; offering subsidised childcare could rectify this, boosting productivity and making a positive statement about your commitment to working mums in your organisation. Focus groups are a great way to uncover this insight, and may offer information you hadn’t expected before, too – for example, you might also find that some new fathers are keen to balance their working lives with childcare too.
Eradicate bias in your organisation
You can’t change society or human nature on your own, but you can eliminate bias in your organisation’s hiring practices, and you can take measures to build a ‘bias-neutral’ workplace that helps compensate for wider societal issues. Here are two key areas where you can make a difference:
1. Develop female talent in your organisation.
- One of the reasons women are under-represented in senior positions is because they aren’t typically supported to get there in a male-dominated organisational structure. Investing in development of female leaders in your organisation can help redress this balance. Executive coaching, for example, can help address issues around confidence and empowerment.
- Women are also more likely to leave an organisation after having children, limiting their opportunities to rise up the organisation and leaving you with the task of hiring and training their replacements. One of our large public-sector clients, for instance, found that more than half of their female employees were leaving voluntarily within two years of maternity leave. Initiatives to encourage women both to return to work after having children, and then to stay after coming back, will help you achieve a better female:male ratio, with all the benefits that brings, and progress more women into senior positions in your organisation.
- Flexible working, help with childcare, resilience training and career coaching can help boost retention levels across your workforce. Making this help available without being asked will send a clear message that you understand, and you want to help.
2. Review the company culture.
- Unfortunately there is still a tendency towards unconscious bias in hiring and according to this report by Forbes, even female recruiters can sub-consciously favour men. So using gender-neutral CVs and offering diversity training can go a long way towards ensuring that women are given a fairer chance during recruitment and beyond.
- Unconscious bias can manifest itself in your organisation’s salary bands, so it pays to take a close look. When were they last reviewed? If in doubt, it could be worth bringing in an independent consultant to ensure your compensation plans reflect the value and skills individuals bring to your business, rather than a stereotypical view of men’s vs. women’s roles.
- Finally, consider whether your workplace is set up for women to be senior leaders. How easy is it for executives in your organisation to clock off at a sensible time, take time off at short notice and spend weekends with their families? Is there an unwritten expectation that they will work an 80-hour week, and could that also be an issue for male executives? If you could solve this issue for all your leadership team, male or female, not only would they be happier, but you also reduce the likelihood of female employees being seen as a problem that needs to be solved.
An organisation where all your employees can thrive
When you focus organisational development create a fair and equitable working environment, it becomes easier to attract and retain top talent to your organisation, and to maintain motivation and productivity. But it requires a proactive approach. So if you have concerns about gender bias and employee satisfaction, the time to act is right now.