International Women’s Day – what is your organisation doing?

As International Women’s Day approaches once again, businesses and employees alike reflect on their own business’s work culture. Is the business inclusive in supporting and nurturing talent regardless of their gender identity, or is there still a way to go?

The pay gap is an emotive subject for many. After all, 51% of the population faces the possibility that they will be paid less for producing the same level of work as the other 49%. Additionally, the myth of meritocracy still exists in many organisations who do not realise how many subtle barriers to progression there are within their talent attraction and management processes.

International Women's Day

This year, the campaign hashtag proclaims #EachforEqual, a statement that denotes the power of collective individualism and promotes self-accountability. It’s essentially an open invitation for everyone to play their part in creating positive change- everyone can be an advocate for gender equality through being aware of how our actions, conversations, behaviour and mindset impact our wider society.

However, those with more power inevitably have more influence, so those in leadership positions at work need to lead by example by creating and upholding a culture that promotes equality, diversity and inclusion.

What’s the significance of International Women’s Day in business?

International Women’s Day touches on the broad need for equality in a whole host of spaces. The event celebrates the social, cultural, economic and political achievements of women, and the workplace is included as a specific area of focus.

As the Women’s International Day website notes, ‘Equality is not a women’s issue, it’s a business issue.’ This is reflected by the companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on their Exec teams- they are 21% more likely to experience above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile.

This is because gender inequality is structural and as a result, has huge economic implications, many of which are far from being solved. The Global Gender Gap Report 2020 calculated that gender parity is a sobering 99.5 years away, meaning that many of us are unlikely to see this achievement within our lifetime.

Additionally, the gender pay gap is still ever-present. The International Labour Organisation calculated the differential median pay gap between men and women sits at 15%.

This begs the question, don’t we owe it to future generations to make an impactful change now?

The case for gender equality should no longer be an argument or question. It is simply a fact and a problem that needs to be solved. And we are starting to see progress; the Hampton-Alexander review reported that women now hold 33% of board positions in the UK’s top public organisations, almost a year ahead of the deadline for gender diversity targets.

Why is gender equality so hard to overcome in the workplace?

The statistics draw a clear picture of the need for diversity and inclusion to be at the core of your business, but how do women actually experience inequality in the workplace? The reality for many women is that they will be faced with unconscious bias and processes that work to their detriment. Barriers to inclusion lie at every stage of the employee lifecycle and it takes hard work and commitment to instigate change. Busting the myth of meritocracy means:

  • Looking in the mirror – compare your business with others in the sector
  • Having the ‘difficult’ conversations
  • Collaboration – internally and externally

The key is to make inclusion a strategy – focus on the journey rather than short term initiatives:

  • Leaders need to walk the walk
  • Each stage of the employee lifecycle should be transparent and free of barriers
  • Leaders, managers and colleagues need awareness and education
  • Communication and honesty with your people is essential
  • Last but not least involve and engage your recruitment supply chain

While unconscious bias and barriers to progression exist, the potential to eliminate gender pay parity is low.

International Women’s Day at your place of work

Making a conscious effort to celebrate International Women’s Day at your work is a great way to take part in the collective individualism that IWD recommends.

There are plenty of resources available on the website, from including how to plan IWD, IWD speakers and even event packs that you can order.

By celebrating the day, you will be sending out the message that your business is inclusive and wants all its workers to have an equal chance to succeed. Remember to publicise your activity through your company’s LinkedIn page and other social media platforms, and to include the #EachforEqual hashtag.

This is a great start; however, to make meaningful, sustainable change, a celebration of IWD needs to be accompanied by more official action, including creating a Diversity & Inclusion strategy and aligning it with your overall business goals and objectives.

Conclusion

Since the first celebration of International Women’s Day in 1911, our society has made leaps and bounds in moving closer to achieving gender equality, but there’s still plenty of room for improvement.

This is especially the case for the actions we choose to take to create diverse and inclusive work environments. All the research shows that gender equality has a striking, positive impact on GDP, which increases over time, so there’s little reason to avoid it.

If every business took action to make their culture more gender diverse and inclusive, imagine how much we could achieve.

Ultimately, taking gender equality, as well as D&I, seriously within your organisation is a tried and tested means of improving work culture and making you a competitive employer with more access to top talent.

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