This week we took the time to reflect on the achievements, struggles and strength of fantastic women everywhere, past and present. From high profile, barrier-breaking women to our friends and family, women’s capacity for greatness is huge. So how do we ensure that our value and importance is recognised far beyond the 8th of March?
With the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements paving the way to ending sexual harassment and assault in the workplace and discussions around the BBC’s gender pay gap bringing this still significant issue to the forefront of the gender equality discussion, it is clear that positive change is possible and is happening. Of course, women as a group cannot be homogenised and our experiences are far-reaching and vastly different, but there are many simple things that employers in the UK can do to contribute to long-term equality. Below I have outlined three suggestions:
Our diversity of experience means that women have creative, intelligent and innovative ideas and opinions. Many women have been conditioned to feel that their opinions are not as valid as those of their male counterparts and as a result, may be less inclined to come forward with suggestions. Taking this into consideration when calling upon your team for ideas and creating opportunities for input from your female colleagues will make a huge difference in the variety of responses that come back to you.
Far from being a minority or diversity agenda statistic, women are half of the population. It is hugely important that this is reflected in Boards, Advisory Panels and Senior Management. Statistics on this issue speak for themselves – a Fortune 500 Catalyst study showed that companies with the highest percentage of women on their boards outperformed those in the lowest percentage by 53% higher return on equity, 42% higher return on sales, and 66% higher return on invested capital. Having women in senior positions will not only exponentially benefit organisations in terms of harnessing a wealth of diverse knowledge and skills, but gives tangible career pathways and role models to more junior female colleagues who may feel that it is only possible to climb the ladder to middle management.
Women face many barriers to securing the same employment opportunities as men. For many, this includes the need for flexible working options, recognised in Home Secretary Amber Rudd’s recently announced scheme to help women who have been out of work for over a year after having children or caring for an elderly relative re-enter the world of work. This is significant, as duties of care are far more likely to be taken on by women. If employers and colleagues empathise with the additional barriers women face to achieving the career successes they strive for, many of these barriers could ultimately be reduced. If nothing else, acknowledging that in addition to the daily working challenges we all take on, your female co-worker also faces institutional barriers to success will go a long way in starting conversations that can result in change.