How can companies improve equality and close gender pay gaps?

The deadline for gender pay gap reporting has come and gone, but what is next for UK companies? More than 10,000 large firms provided details of their gender pay gap, with three-quarters of them paying men more than women, so how can they address the imbalance?

Freddie Alves, Managing Director, Inclusion with Purpose at Talking Talent, a company that specialises in inclusion coaching, as well as coaching for working parents and female leaders said:

“With fewer than one in seven companies paying women as much or more than men, there is clearly a great deal of work to be done to improve equality. Companies need to gain a far deeper understanding of why gender pay gaps exist in their organisation and then put in place strategies to address them. There are realistic opportunities for companies to improve their diversity.”

“Unless organisations now take concrete steps towards creating inclusion and gender equality, we’ll be in exactly the same position when next year’s reporting deadlines roll around. And, while recent campaigns like #metoo have started to change attitudes to the treatment of women at work, the media coverage of the pay gap story seems to be dwindling already. We can’t rely on the outcry of one week to ensure that this legislation has a real impact.”

“In our work helping organisations to take action, we frequently see the same causes of gender imbalance at senior levels, and these feed into the gender pay gap. Of course, each organisation is unique, so these issues are weighted differently, but we can see that women benefit from support when they reach some typical pinch-points in their careers. For example, employees of both genders often need support in staying engaged and sustaining their performance while navigating parenthood. Some organisations need to focus more on other areas, like moving women into leadership roles.”

“As well as fixing systemic issues such as lack of diversity in recruiting, leaders need to ask themselves what they, personally, can do in their organisations today. Ask… ‘Are you a role model for inclusive behaviours?’,  ‘Do you actively sponsor women?’,  ‘Do you challenge decisions made within your organisation which seem to exclude women?’,  ‘Do you have people working to make sure that talent practices operate fairly and inclusively?’,  ‘Do you operate listening sessions, so that you understand the key factors that drive women out?’.”

“In the deep diagnostic work we do within organisations, we often identify inconsistency among leaders and managers as a key problem. The most inclusive policies and practices fall apart when not operated as intended by managers.  Managers will remain inconsistent unless gender balance feels important and makes commercial sense. Most managers want to understand the rationale behind any change where they have a front-line role to play. Many decisions, after all, rest with managers: how to give employees high-visibility opportunities, flexible arrangements, coaching, feedback. Each business needs to find its own way to educate managers on what is expected of them and why.”

“Pay gap data gives evidence of an unacceptable status quo, but it does not in itself trigger change. We have the figures on the gender pay gap; now we need to start talking about what we can do to change it. Otherwise, it will remain only noise.”

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