Women in Business

The trend of hiring more women for leadership positions is increasing with reports claiming that there are now more women running Fortune 500 companies today than at any other time in history.


However, in the UK this trend applies to only 6.4% of the country’s leading companies showing that, although there are constant front-page stories featuring female CEOs and entrepreneurs, there is still a long way to go in the pursuit of gender equality. According to the RBS and the University of Dundee, boosting female entrepreneurship could deliver as much as an additional £60 billion to the UK economy.


This Women’s History Month has been the most eventful as a result of the ongoing pandemic and the brutal social after-effects following Sarah Everard‘s murder. What is needed now most in the world is more female support and empowerment, and better practices in gender equality.


The question here is ‘what’s stopping women from making a leap into fulfilling their dreams?’ Over the past few years, it has emerged that there are two core areas in which women require aid in the corporate world - support and advice.


When it comes to running a business, the tasks that the role involves can be daunting, especially without access to a well-experienced support network. Historically, at times the corporate world has failed to understand the amount of gender discrimination that exists within its environment, whether it’s sexual harassment, paying different genders and races differently, differentiating ‘men’s work’ and ‘women’s work’ or choosing to promote men over women. So let’s look at some ways in which equality can be encouraged in the workplace


Prioritise your employees’ work/life balance

This past year has been rough in every sector with millions of employees being uprooted from their workplace and forced to work from home. Naturally,, this has the potential to affect individuals in terms of their mental health and therefore one key aspect is to set boundaries between work and life.


While employers need to ensure that their employees are taken care of, likewise, employees need to be able to set their own boundaries to protect themselves. They should not believe their desire to show how motivated and hardworking means taking on more and more work so they should be allowed, and encouraged, to stick to their standard contracted hours. However, according to workplace insight, it is estimated that 66% of employees work longer than their contracted hours resulting in £3.2 billion in overtime each week.


Remove or be more transparent about the gender pay gap

Studies show that companies are less likely to pay women a standard salary when negotiating the terms of a new job or promotion leading companies to find themselves in a situation where men are better compensated than women, a situation that will continue if it fails to be monitored and addressed.


"A lack of knowledge about who makes what within organizations contribute to this continuing disparity," A growing body of research suggests that pay transparency – improving such knowledge – reduces the gender wage gap

Baker et al. 2019


General company culture dictates that employees shouldn’t talk about their pay, this is definitely proven in the private sector, where around 60% of workers operate under a pay secrecy policy.


There are four ways in which companies can strategize and tackle the gender pay gap. These are as followed; commit to flexible working (allowing employees to fit their life around work), making pay transparent for each department or role, produce a report that offers an analysis of employee salaries, and encourage salary negotiations.


Businesses need to be proactive and do more than just comply with statutory requirements. They should be able to invest their time in closing the wage gap and any other disparities in wage.


Encourage those in managerial positions to focus on inclusivity

As an employee, you can also play a part in encouraging your company to build better inclusivity practices by speaking out and holding your company accountable. This will help to ensure the overall corporate environment is free of assumptions and biases, that a respectful environment for people to grow is fostered and that employees feel safe enough to be genuine. Having these traits embodied by higher management, and giving employees a voice, stops the idea that companies’ approaches to diversity and inclusiveness merely pay ‘lip service’ and instead promote better company culture.


Equal access to career opportunities.

It’s often natural to feel that you’ve missed out on being given the higher-profile assignments. However, for women, this is more often the case since roles and tasks are frequently differentiated. In most cases, women aren’t given tasks of the same importance as men, nor the promotions, and instead are given tasks that are ‘more suited’ to them such as social media, writing content, administrative or organisational tasks. This is often worse for People of Colour (POC).


If this type of behaviour is evident in your workplace, you could suggest that your company proactively recognises and amends this dynamic. This could be through starting a women’s network within the organisation, posting jobs internally before externally (keeping employees committed) and ensuring that women and POC are given the opportunities to handle high profile assignments and showcase their talent.


Adopt a zero-tolerance policy against harassment

People usually assume that harassment in the workplace always means serious and litigious situations but women often come across much more subtle forms of harassment that lead to a feeling of discomfort. An example of these include winks in email sign-offs, an unsolicited kiss on the cheek from a co-worker, late-night texts featuring a compliment. Companies are frequently not quick to resolve such issues or challenge fellow associates in order not to rock the boat.


Conclusion

Ideally, these suggestions will already have been implemented throughout the corporate world but, if not, then companies should ask questions internally about any such issues that employees struggle with and tackle these. However, the increase in articles covering this subject indicates that companies still have a long way to go and, although the process can be time-consuming, companies need to take more initiative and start these tough conversations.


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