Chris Parke: Nine ways to tackle the gender pay gap

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Chris Parke

Following MP Penny Mordaunt’s plans to foster gender equality in the UK last month (June 2019), we are calling on all organisations to create and maintain a strong inclusion and diversion strategy – to tackle the ways of thinking that allowed the gender pay gap to develop in the first place and to help level the playing field for working women.

Diagnose, Learn, Deliver

1.       Diagnose the real root causes – don’t just guess what’s had the greatest impact on gender balance & pay.

Pause the action for just long enough to diagnose, using the right types of information and data from within your organisation to identify the biggest barriers for women in your specific organisation.

2.       Learn from your own people – have they had an opportunity to voice their opinions about the causes & potential solutions to the gender pay gap?

Create safe spaces where people can provide rich, honest and creative input from within your organisation. Convert this into actionable insights and recommendations needed to focus investment and accelerate closure of the gender pay gap.

3.       Do something to benefit everyone – deliver an inclusive culture.

The only way to irreversibly close the gender pay gap is to keep changing the culture until it is genuinely inclusive for both women and men. How do you do this? Get clear about what creates inclusion inside their own organisations. Not in theory, but in terms of specific behaviours and practices among peers and between managers and their direct reports, resulting in a change in policies, practices, attitudes and behaviours.

Support working parents

4.       Create a new deal for your working dads so couples can take more equal parenting responsibilities.

Closing the gender pay gap requires thinking about how you’re supporting men as well as women, particularly when it comes to parenthood and childcare – a traditionally female domain.  How can your organisation increase support for your working dads? Too frequently they are being forced to choose between their career progression and parental responsibility – but why? The answer is fear. The unavoidable fact is that currently a lot of working dads fear that Shared Parental Leave (SPL) will have a significant detrimental impact on their career, as well as (in many cases) it being a financially un-viable option.

When you start tackling organisational culture barriers that currently see men who take SPL facing a ‘fatherhood penalty’ (whether real or perceived), you’ll be countering men’s fears about the fall-out of SPL and promoting it from within. Championing this balance is not only good for new fathers, but has the knock-on effect of creating the space working mums need to nurture and develop their careers.

5.       Improve line manager accountability & capabilities.

Commitment to supporting your working parents needs to be clear, visible and consistent in every area of the organisation. Change needs to start at the top of your organisation. If asked, how would your people rate the effectiveness of their managers in helping them through the parental transition?

Research has shown that 75 per cent of UK managers were viewed as less than very effective at this critical pinch point of a person’s career.  By improving line manager support for your working parents at this time, you’ll see an increase in retention at a point in your female talent pipeline that could otherwise suffer.

6.       Truly flexible working arrangements or a tick box exercise?

There is a huge scope for organisations to increase both the amount and availability of truly flexible working arrangements. The majority of working parents are screaming for these types of arrangements, whether formally or informally set up.

What most organisations don’t fully realise is that the benefits from operating truly flexible working goes well beyond “happy employees = happy workplace = increased performance”. It’s a huge contributory factor that enables them to retain both talent and skills, which in turn will help to close their own gender pay gap.

Retain your female pipeline

7.       Provide women with the skills to have a ‘courageous conversation’ about pay.

Women find it difficult to ask for a pay rise and don’t always get a positive response from their manager when they find the courage to broach the subject. They appreciate the opportunity to discuss the topic with other women on the programme and to practise the skills to have a courageous conversation. Individual coaching sessions can help people understand what is holding them back from asking for what they want and to build their confidence.

8.       Support women to help them realise their full potential.

Enabling females to develop skills that will help them to progress within their career will have an impact on the succession barriers that currently exist within your organisation. Therefore, businesses should provide the space and opportunity for them to get clarity of their career vision and to create a plan for making that vision a reality. Offering them support to reach their potential will create a long term move towards gender balance in senior roles and raise awareness of gender diversity across the entire organisation.

9.       Encourage managers to think differently.

Engagement of line managers as key stakeholders supporting, mentoring and sponsoring your female talent, will deliver a greater impact. Identifying ambassadors of gender diversity within your organisation will help to ensure the development of your female talent is robust, sustainable and measurable. Helping to develop managers who create more inclusive work places will facilitate systemic change.

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