Global gender pay gap data shows many industries, including construction, financial services, medicine and more have a significant gender imbalance, with women occupying far fewer senior roles and being paid consistently less than men.
Gender imbalance is present in a huge variety of businesses and sectors, irrespective of whether they’re traditionally ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’. Many company boards have no women at all, leaving women out of important decision-making and perpetuating the idea that women can’t progress in particular companies.
As common as this is, decades of international research across five fields has proven a diverse workforce is more skilled at problem-solving, better prepared and more creative.
With a different approach to recruitment, promotion, and internal management, businesses in any sector could improve their gender balance and potentially grow their revenue at the same time.
Shortlist more women during recruitment
If the pool of recently qualified accountants, construction managers, and engineers is mainly male, it’s already difficult for hiring businesses to invite more women to interview.
Look for industry initiatives designed to improve access, appoint diversity managers, consider college courses with higher numbers of female graduates and make your job ads more gender-neutral. Gendered language in job ads, particularly in the tech industry, can lead to fewer women applying.
The best-qualified person will still get the job but there’ll be a more diverse group of people to consider.
Challenge negative company culture
Review your current company culture and analyse the pay gap – especially if it doesn’t look very good at the moment! If it’s currently very easy for senior men to recognise other men, and women rarely get in the right room, promotion cycles need to change. If women are negotiating fewer pay increases than their male counterparts, it’s up to their senior managers to take note and do something about it.
Ongoing training can also help people understand what kind of unconscious biases could be influencing their workplace behaviour, attitude in meetings, and even out-of-hours social activities. It all adds up and could create a much more welcoming company culture if addressed.
Improve shared parental leave and benefits
If women are leaving your company at a faster rate than men, it could be because they feel they have fewer options after parenthood. The gender pay gap rises after women have children, often because women are more likely to take care of the majority of childcare and leave the workforce entirely, or only return on a part-time basis, which massively reduces their access to higher pay and promotion. Parenthood is a shared responsibility, but mothers are losing out more than fathers.
Different countries have different parental leave laws. Parents in Finland, Germany, Iceland, Norway and Sweden have the most generous parental leave policies, but many other countries don’t offer it.
This is a particularly difficult issue for employers to get right because they (rightly!) only have so much influence over their employee’s family lives. However, it will make a huge difference if employers actively encourage and discuss shared parental leave as a good option for their male staff when it’s available, rather than assuming full maternity leave will be taken on by female staff.
Encourage mentorship and progression
When you hire talented women they should be able to progress, mentor others, and encourage them to achieve decision-making positions too. Change has to start somewhere.
Top talent won’t stick around if they don’t see the potential to grow within the company and gain more responsibility. If your C-suite roles and partner positions are male-dominated, it’s much harder for women lower down in the company to see themselves in that position, so they need senior women to champion them. Mentorship helps ambitious women understand what they need to do to be promoted and gets them in front of current decision-makers.
Companies with “at least three female board members see median productivity of 1.2% above competitors”, so there’s everything to be gained.
The importance of gender inclusivity in any business
Inclusivity helps people feel welcome in your business, regardless of gender. Businesses don’t need to transform their entire culture to start addressing gender imbalance, just listen to their staff, notice what’s holding women back from senior positions and improve long-term progression.
By closing the gender pay gap, and improving diversity at every level, businesses will move forward with a more engaged, productive, and positive workforce.