Narrowing the GPG

12 April 2018

This article was featured in the May 2018 issue of the magazine.

Rachel Mapleston, business analyst at MHR, shares five ways to improve workplace gender equality and to break down barriers to drive women’s career progression

Closing the gender pay gap (GPG) and working towards a more gender-diverse workforce represents a major cultural shift towards a modern way of working. The following have positive results for organisations, both in terms of productivity and engagement. 

  • Consider flexible working – Flexible hours, remote working and job sharing allow for a healthier work-life balance and could help reduce your GPG. As women predominantly take on the responsibility of childcare, flexible working provides them with the opportunity to take on more senior roles without it conflicting with their childcare commitments. Research shows that companies adopting this policy typically see an increase in productivity and profit.

  • Evaluate your recruitment process – Preconceptions about certain roles or industries may lead to fewer women applying for positions than men (e.g. in engineering) resulting in candidate shortlists dominated by men. 

Introducing unbiased training for those involved in the selection process, as well as predefined shortlist splits, could improve the number of women interviewed for positions in male-dominated industries. Gender-diverse organisations, and particularly senior leadership teams, have been proven to increase performance.

  • Take succession planning seriously – Succession planning is the identification and development of employees who could step into a senior role. This is strategically beneficial to employers, as it allows continuity – ‘business as usual’ – when a role becomes available. 

For employees, this provides a sense of being valued, which is likely to increase their loyalty and productivity, and allows targeted training to aid their progression. As women are more likely to take on roles with less responsibility due to childcare commitments, succession planning can highlight those with potential and put in place a career path to senior roles.

  • Tackle industry bias – Ingrained cultural assumptions can deter women from applying for positions in certain industries considered ‘male’. This can stem from an early age because of subject choices, with stereotypes, and a lack of mentoring at primary school age thought to be key contributors. 

Although employers may believe they cannot alter this mind-set, publicising a gender-diverse organisation, building advertising campaigns designed to challenge assumptions around gender roles, and discussing their industry and roles with the wider community are some of the ways to reducing this bias. 

  • Get everyone on board – Once organisations have a plan in place, buy-in from board members from the outset is fundamental to the plan’s success and longevity. Without this, GPG reporting could become a data gathering exercise with no real purpose.