EngagementDiversity & InclusionWomen still face a significant gender bias in the UK workplace

Women still face a significant gender bias in the UK workplace

Recent reports by BBC and the Royal Statistical Society have found that there is still a strong gender bias for a significant number of UK workforces.

The BBC recently released a report to find that in four in 10 private companies, their gap has surprisingly widened in comparison to the year before. With recent shifts in culture and positivity behind gender balance being such a common thing in today’s age. It is surprising to see that for a significant amount of companies, not much seems to have changed.

Sarah Kaiser, Employee Experience, Diversity & Inclusion Lead for Fujitsu EMEIA has shared her thoughts: “With the deadline for companies to publish their second gender pay report fast-approaching, it’s concerning that four in 10 private companies that have published their latest gender pay gap, are reporting wider gaps than they did last year. Creating a collaborative environment which is open to different ideas, perspectives and styles of thinking are crucial for any business. The fact that we are seeing widening gender pay gap points to a simple truth – there needs to be a collective effort to create environments where women can succeed.”

In addition to this recent news regarding gender balance, a report from the Royal Statistical Society enforced the notion that this gender bias is still significant in UK workplaces. The survey was the first of its kind, being powered by artificial intelligence. It found in particular that 82% of all CEOS, 92% of chairpersons and 73% of directors are male.

Sarah commented on what companies can do to combat this stark challenge, saying: “There are many steps that businesses can take to facilitate a diverse and inclusive work environment. One major factor preventing gender equality is the pipeline problem. If organisations are to address the low number of women in more senior-level positions the first step is to increase the pipeline of talent by driving recruitment of women at a graduate and apprentice level.”

When looking at the sectors where this gap is ever prominent. Construction, Finance, and Electricity and Gas were the biggest culprits. Sarah finished by further discussing the importance of this problem.

“But it doesn’t stop there. It’s easy enough to put in place initiatives where half of a company’s graduates employed are women, but this shouldn’t be seen as a box-ticking exercise. Women need to be properly retained and included with an organisation, and the introduction of women’s networks, for instance, can be vital in ensuring women receive the proper support and advice they need. But it should be the responsibility of the senior team to take the lead by championing women within their organisation and encouraging senior women to act as mentors and role models. This study is a stark reminder that businesses need to step up and actively change if we are to conquer gender inequality in the workplace.”

When looking at specifically what companies had an increasingly large gap. Banks such as RBS and Lloyds Banking Group seem to be ever growing. With the average gap being 36.8% and 32.8% respectively.

Rachel Mapleston, legislation expert at MHR shared her thoughts on this ever-growing gap, saying: “The widening discrepancy in gender pay highlighted by the BBC analysis although alarming does not come as a great surprise. With this year’s reporting deadline based on snapshot dates of 31st March and 5th April 2018, employers that didn’t take the time to evaluate their results and start to implement changes were never going to see much of a difference.”

She also commented on an organisations reaction to their results “Employers who identified a gap but chose not to act on this information may well be seen in a less favourable light than those with initially bigger pay gaps who have demonstrated they are working towards reducing them.

Despite the negatives, there were companies that saw improvement in closing this gap. For example, London Heathrow Airport closed its gap to 0.6% in comparison to 6.5% the year before.

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Elizabeth Hegarty, Heathrow’s director of customer relations and service commented on this saying. “It’s no one’s fault – it’s not a blame game. This is a chance to recruit excellent talent,”

Rachel ended by discussing how this gap could close in the near future, saying “As part of their inaugural report last year employers were asked to include a supporting narrative, outlining why their gap exists together with their plans to address it. If organisations have started to act on this then hopefully we will start to see the gaps narrowing in 2020, however, this has been an issue since legislation was introduced in the 1970s, so it will likely take many more years to resolve.”

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