Gender Equality in the Workplace

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Roz Bird
Chief Executive Office - Anglia Innovation Partnership LLP
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Roz Bird
Chief Executive Office - Anglia Innovation Partnership LLP
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1.      Why should businesses be interested in gender equality?

To help address concerns about the local skills pool:

  • In a growing economy there will always be skills shortages or at least concerns about maintaining a good skills/talent pool.
  • Businesses should surely aim to attract all people, with the right attitude, into their industry.
  • 51% of the population is female, in the UK, and so if a business does not have circa 50% female employees, at all levels, then this is an indication that there are barriers to women joining
  • If the barriers are identified and overcome, then the skills pool will increase, and this will help businesses with their growth plans
  • Improving business performance
  • Data now shows that gender balanced businesses are more successful
  • Businesses need to innovate and adapt to address changing times, to avoid becoming obsolete to attract candidates and retain employees
  • As customers and employees become more diverse in today’s complex and global environment, leaders and managers must be adaptable and competent in order to manage the gender-balanced workforces of the future
  • If a business ignores the changing trends in society then it is ignoring the interests of new recruits and it will find it harder to attract and retain talented people
  • If a business does not stay current it also risks missing new trends, emerging in society, and therefore it will miss out on new business opportunities
  • Customers will be turned off by obsolete cultures that do not meet their expectations
  • This same, out of date, culture will negatively affect retention of talented people

2.      Guiding principles - to help take the subject ‘out of the too difficult box’

  • Gender equality in the workplace is not a women’s issue – it’s a male issue too.  Male allies are required to step up and help drive the change.  It is also society’s issue to solve
  • Sexist behaviour comes from both men and women, it is the product of the way that we were brought up, our schooling and the media’s use of stereotyping to simplify their message
  • Behaviour that promotes equality comes from both men and women
  • There is no place for casual sexism in society, for example, the definition of tasks as ‘pink jobs and blue jobs’, or the often-used phrase that ‘men can’t multitask’. It is not a joke; it does offend people and it perpetuates the problem that we are trying to solve
  • The work environment should encourage the reporting of microaggressions
  • The work environment should encourage the reporting of gaslighting
  • Childcare is not a women’s issue, it’s a male issue too and it is for society to solve
  • Both men and women have the right to work in a place that is close to their child’s nursery, to have time off to look after their children and to be involved in the pick-ups and drop-offs at school, etc.
  • Both men and women should take paternity and maternity leave and carers leave without fear of it affecting their careers, and they should not be expected to work “extra” to catch up
  • The best businesses are about innovation and solving problems, every business community should therefore be prepared for change and challenge: challenge stereotypes, embrace change, and difference, and embrace new ideas to create positive outcomes
  • Intersectionality, where aspects of a person’s identity intersect to create different types of discrimination, for example, a black woman can experience discrimination because she is black and because she is a woman. The workplace needs to acknowledge that this can disadvantage people more and in different ways.
  • It is no longer good enough to be passive about sexual discrimination, racism, disability discrimination and homophobia. Society must take an ‘anti’ stance or risk becoming complicit
  • We all need to be aware of our privilege

3.      Simple steps that companies can take now

  • Sexual harassment must be treated as gross misconduct even if the perpetrator is your best performing, or most talented, employee
  • Undertake unconscious bias training to help start the conversation in your organisation about diversity and barriers to recruitment. It helps to promote an understanding that we all have bias and encourages us to consider how to manage this, in a practical way, to help with recruitment and managing people
  • Embark on a training programme to learn how to be an inclusive leader and an inclusive company
  • Review policies, recruitment processes, and the image of your company on the web, and in other forms of communication, and change the way you operate, and present your business, in order to reflect the gender balanced organisation you aspire to be
  • Equal pay for equal work and equal rights in terms of maternity and paternity leave

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