IWD2021: Eight steps for employers driving a gender equal future

Post author image. Charlotte Woodworth
BITC’s Gender Director, Charlotte Woodworth, outlines eight steps businesses can take for a gender equal future as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year’s International Women’s Day falls after a year of turbulent and rapid change. The impact of the COVID-19 crisis on gender equality in the UK, especially for women at work, has been well documented1. But, if the crisis has exposed how fragile the position of women in today’s labour market is, the recovery is a golden opportunity to build a ‘new normal’ with gender equality hardwired in.

Today Business in the Community (BITC) publishes its Route Map to a More Gender Equal Future. This is a ‘how to’ guide for businesses wanting to ensure a future where everyone, regardless of their gender, can thrive.

The Route map outlines eight key steps for businesses to take as we recover from the crisis. It also features examples of BITC members and other organisations already leading the way. BITC are calling on responsible businesses, committed to a fairer and more inclusive future, to follow their lead.

  1. Make it a business priority – commit to ensuring women do not lose out as you continue to adapt. Pledge that women employees will not be disproportionately disadvantaged as a result of restructures or downsizing.
  2. Consider all women – the crisis highlighted afresh how women are not one homogenous group. Race, age and caring status shaped women’s experiences of the past year differently. A one size fits all approach is not good enough.
  3. Help everybody care – the pandemic has shown the dangers of expecting women to do the lion’s share of caring. Ensure your parental leave policies support everyone to care by fostering greater equality in the home. Enabling dads and other carers to play a more active role with their children also helps gender equality at work.
  4. Embrace flexible working – women consistently cite agile working patterns as one of their highest priorities. With the pandemic triggering changed attitudes to flexible working2, focus on output and results, not how and when work is done.
  5. Take a transparent approach towards pay – being discreet about salaries – from job ads that just say ‘competitive salary’, to promotion processes with unclear criteria – fuels unequal pay. Employers should default to being as transparent as possible every time pay comes up, including reporting your gender pay gap.
  6. Take the bias out of recruitment – hiring processes can very easily become ‘gendered’, so it is vital to ensure your approach is robust, free from bias and does not inadvertently favour men over women. This includes assessing job design, the language used in job ads, where you advertise and the people who sit on interview panels.
  7. Collect and analyse data – understanding how your business is doing when it comes to gender equality demands quality insight. You should go beyond pay gap stats and use data to consider the full employee lifecycle. Apply a gender lens to recruitment, retention, promotion and more to pinpoint problems and identify possible solutions.
  8. Commit to an inclusive culture for everyone, everyday – before COVID-19, women reported higher rates of harassment and discrimination at work. While the impact of hybrid working is still being understood it is imperative that businesses work to build and maintain working cultures where everyone feels included.

Read the Route Map to a More Gender Equal Future to find out more detail to help your business chart a path towards a more fair future.

BITC can support your organisation in furthering gender equality at work, ensuring your business can benefit from the talent women have to offer. To find out more about creating a better future for women at work, contact BITC, the UK’s leading network for responsible business.

WE CAN TAKE YOU FURTHER ON YOUR RESPONSIBLE BUSINESS JOURNEY

References

  1. UK Parliament, (9 February 2021), ‘Unequal Impact? Coronavirus and the gendered economic impact’, https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm5801/cmselect/cmwomeq/385/38502.htm.
  2. Chung, H., Hyojin, S., Forbes, S., Birkett, H. (2020) Working from home during the Covid-19 lockdown: Changing preferences and the future of work. https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/Documents/college-social-sciences/business