Companies need to do more to build a workplace where everyone feels safe and inspired whatever their gender, says Victoria Sprott, from hiring, benefits and promotion through to inclusive pronouns and allyship.


Companies are only outwardly inclusive

There has been a huge increase in the number of organisations outwardly supporting inclusive workplaces. 

We know from studies that it fuels innovation and increases financial performance. A company that has the ability to innovate on behalf of its employees and customers relies on the perspectives and knowledge of people from all backgrounds and genders. 

But despite efforts to create more inclusive workplaces, outcomes for women throughout the pandemic show there is still a sizeable gap. Recent figures from HMRC reveal that six months after the UK’s Covid Job Retention Scheme was introduced, 126,900 more women than men were on furlough, even though they make up only 47 per cent of the UK workforce.

It is worth noting that the figures do not account for non-binary or trans individuals, but this data suggests a certain amount of bias still exists in the workplace, unconscious or otherwise. 

 There are a lot of areas to consider when it comes to addressing the gender balance in a workplace – but unfortunately it is not as simple as hiring in equal numbers and promising equal pay. 


Gender bias is deep-rooted

Gender bias in the workplace is a systemic issue, linked to deep-rooted traditions. For example, how many women were placed on furlough to manage childcare while nurseries and schools were closed due lockdown.

And it has consequences. According to the Resolution Foundation, women were re-entering work at less than half the rate of men (15 per cent compared to 36 per cent), which could mean that the burden of home-schooling have slowed women’s job searches. 

 With job vacancies hitting a record high at 1.1 million between July and September as the economic recovery continues, there are several ways for businesses to support women, and other underrepresented groups, in the workplace including offering opportunities for development, improving workplace conditions and encouraging allyship.


Could you change your hiring practices?

These include creating inclusive hiring processes such as removing identifying information when it comes to shortlisting candidates and having diverse interview panels. 

According to our 2022 Salary Guide, three in five businesses (59%) have now adopted blind hiring processes, and it is a great way to ensure that a candidate’s characteristics do not contribute to or inhibit their success. Removing gendered language from job descriptions has been shown to increase the number of applications from all genders.

Encouraging pronoun sharing helps to create a more comfortable environment, without the risk of misgendering. Even sharing preferred pronouns on email signatures is a helpful step in the right direction. 

Some claim the reason for there being fewer women in senior positions is linked to the time they take off to raise their families but, with the introduction of shared parental leave and other initiatives, this type of thinking is taking a back seat. 

Not only can partners now share leave, in some cases companies are offering all new parents the same parental leave benefits and making it clear that they are strongly encouraged to take up the offer. 


Stop gender stereotyping

Gender stereotyping is sadly still alive and well in office environments. Encouraging all employees to act as allies, and politely point out this type of stereotyping, helps to educate the workforce and reduce this type of bias going forward. While these things will help to establish an inclusive workplace, it is also crucial that you allow under-represented voices to be heard in safe spaces.

For example, at Robert Half, recognised as being one of the best employers for women, we set up BEN – Black Employee Network and GWEN (Global Women’s Employee Network) that allows employees to share, with anonymity or in a way that feels comfortable, their lived experiences of their workplace, giving you more reliable insights on areas where your business could improve. 



What are you actually offering?

The lockdown and prolonged periods of working from home has seen many people re-think their priorities. People no longer need to pretend to be someone they are not or put up with conversations and behaviours that they are not comfortable with.

 Despite the resurgence of the virus, eventually employees will have to transition back to the office, which could see many consider new jobs in a company where they feel the culture is a better match, and where they are free to be their authentic selves. 

Companies need to carefully consider their offering in terms of gender inclusivity, or they could find a mass exodus of employees awaits them in the new year.



Victoria Sprott is a recruitment director at Robert Half