Is your company forward-thinking and proactive in creating a positive and fair working environment, or being dragged down by old-fashioned institutional values?

One example of a deep-seated structural inequality is reflected in the Gender Pay Gap. Fifty years after the 1970 Equal Pay Act proscribed discrimination by gender in the workplace, women still earn on average 17.3 less than men, proving that progress is happening very slowly.

As with so many areas of business, it pays to take an active stance and embrace positive change. Working towards equality in the workplace doesn’t just look good on paper – it creates more opportunities for diverse skills and talent, boosts employee morale, productivity, and retention rates, and makes for a more positive working culture.

Either strive forwards or risk falling behind. Bosses need to acknowledge the scope of the Gender Pay Gap both generally, and within their own company infrastructures. They must then take more active measures to generate more inclusive work opportunities for all.

The Gender Pay Gap: A Cross-industry Issue

There are various historical, social, and systemic factors at play when it comes to inequality in the workplace. Discrimination can sometimes be overt and conscious, but unconscious bias can also affect management decisions, company infrastructure, and working cultures, to alienate minorities accessing better work opportunities.

That’s why it helps to take the evidence of workplace inequality into account, to be aware of how widespread issues such as the Gender Pay Gap are. For example, the career experts at Resume.io found that, even in 57 jobs that are typically dominated by women in terms of numbers, men are paid more in every field.

The statistics, taken from ONS figures for 2019, show that there is a significant disparity in earnings across a wide variety of sectors, including Health and Social Care, the Service industry, Finance, Sales, and Education. Whether an industry’s workforce is predominantly men or women, the pay gap exists.

In fact, in the top ten fields occupied by a majority female workforce, not only do men consistently earn more, but eight of the average salaries for women workers are below the ‘Basic Rate’ of income tax. This proves that inequality hits the lowest earners the most and that women’s work is consistently devalued.

Health and Social Care is the field with the highest number of female-dominated jobs that suffer from the Gender Pay Gap. 12 professions show a disparity, with women Dental Practitioners earning a whopping £26,451.00 (39.3%) less than their male counterparts at the higher end of the salary-spectrum, and Teaching Assistants earning   £3152 (19.8%) less, at the lower end.

Education also proves to be a significantly under-valued field. While the vast majority of all education workers are women, the pay gap reaches almost £10,000 for Librarians and Senior Teachers. This is a demotivating lack of recognition for those who are expected to nurture and inspire society’s future.

Addressing the Gender Pay Gap in Your Business

Accepting that inequality is a society-wide issue and that the Gender Pay Gap affects all areas of work, is a significant first step in effecting positive change. The next step is reflecting on how all this relates to your company, and what you can do to strive for equality.

Making a conscious shift towards equality can sometimes be discomforting, especially to those already benefiting from the status quo. It might require making changes to your work culture and infrastructure, and reconsidering recruitment strategies and age-old hierarchies. It’s worth remembering that your company, as well as your employees, will benefit from this shift in the long term.

Fortunately, there are some proven strategies that can help you work towards addressing the Gender Pay Gap:

  • Recruitment: Make a conscious effort to include multiple women in shortlists when you are recruiting new employees. Use structured interviews with predetermined questions, standardized criteria, and skills-based assessments to avoid unconscious bias. It can also help to make returners (people who have had a gap in employment due to caring or parental responsibilities) welcome to apply for positions, and establish a diverse selection panel, where possible.
  • Transparency: Be open about the processes, policies, and decision-making criteria related to salaries, promotions, and pay rewards. Women are statistically less likely to negotiate for better rates, and transparency can help with this.
  • Support: Provide more welcoming and encouraging working conditions, such as paid parental leave, opportunities for flexible working schedules, networking opportunities, mentoring, sponsorship, and leadership training for women and other minorities.
  • Reflection and Response: Review your company’s policies and procedures through a diversity and equality audit. Consider employing a diversity manager or consultant to help you set new internal equality targets, as well as organizing training sessions in diversity and unconscious bias.

Striving for equality in the workplace isn’t just a legal responsibility, it’s also the ethical – and logical – thing to do. Your workplace morale, productivity, and reputation will reap the long-term rewards of fair representation and diversity.

Lorraine Kipling is a freelance writer and editor from Manchester, UK. She writes for Resume.io.

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