Making workplace equality a reality – Nicola Britovsek, HR director, Sodexo Engage

Making workplace equality a reality – Nicola Britovsek, HR director, Sodexo Engage

From the Time’s Up campaign to the new gender pay gap report, there’s no shortage of people banging their drum about the need to level the playing fie

From the Time’s Up campaign to the new gender pay gap report, there’s no shortage of people banging their drum about the need to level the playing field when it comes to gender equality.

 

Price Waterhouse Coopers recently became the latest company to respond; banning all-male shortlists for senior job roles and announcing plans to put an end to all-male interview panels. But while it’s great to see such a big organisation fly the flag for females, we’ve still got a long way to go.

 

Let’s face facts; no matter how many companies claim they’re committed to gender equality, women are still underpaid and undervalued. The stats speak for themselves – the number of women in Britain’s boardrooms is just 8%[1]. And the number of females in executive roles isn’t much better at 10%. Worse still, a 2017 World Economic Forum report predicted the gender pay gap won’t close for another 217 years.

 

And it’s not just women. A general lack of diversity across Britain’s biggest companies has seen the number of ethnic minorities in the most senior roles fall by 10% over the past decade.[2] The reality is that despite all the headlines about equality, businesses are still falling short.

A general lack of diversity across Britain’s biggest companies has seen the number of ethnic minorities in the most senior roles fall by 10% over the past decade.[2] The reality is that despite all the headlines about equality, businesses are still falling short.

Diversity is important across all walks of life, but particularly in the workplace. Diverse workforces are better, stronger and more creative. McKinsey found that gender diverse companies are 15% more likely to do better financially, while ethnically diverse companies are 35% more likely to outdo their competitors. So why are so many companies still missing a trick?

 

More than lip service

 

It’s one thing to talk about diversity, but another to take action. Everyone knows diversity is good for businesses – but a lot of companies fall into the trap of talking, rather than doing.

 

Some might be tired of all the “equality talk”, and others may be annoyed at the lack of action. But this so-called diversity fatigue risks leaving women out in the cold and harming businesses.

 

Even when companies do try and make changes, a lot of the time their tactics fall flat. So where do they go from here? If business leaders don’t deal with the issue head on, it will not only stop women from climbing the rungs of the corporate ladder, but could make them decide to leave a company altogether.

 

At a time when UK productivity is lagging, businesses need to make sure they’re finding and retaining talent. And it starts with culture.  Business leaders often make the mistake of trying to quickly recruit women just to tick boxes. But unless there’s a company-wide cultural shift, these new hires won’t feel comfortable or stick around.

Business leaders often make the mistake of trying to quickly recruit women just to tick boxes. But unless there’s a company-wide cultural shift, these new hires won’t feel comfortable or stick around.

Changing company culture won’t happen overnight. It’s not about one-off training or meeting a quota. The answer lies in championing women across all parts of the business – and that includes making life easier for working mums.

 

The gender divide often grows mid-career, when career opportunities for women come at the same time as having children. Women shouldn’t have to choose. Family-friendly benefits like childcare vouchers, additional holiday and flexible working can go a long way towards helping more women back into work and boosting staff morale.

 

Holistic approach

 

However, businesses need to remember that it’s not enough to just tell employees about these benefits. Managers need to lead by example – and that means championing equality right across the board. That doesn’t mean that gender equality is an issue just for those at the very top though.

Managers need to lead by example – and that means championing equality right across the board. That doesn’t mean that gender equality is an issue just for those at the very top though.

 

Business leaders definitely need to set the tone, but the rest of the company has a big role to play too. Anyone involved in the day-to-day running of the business can help to drive change and make diversity a two-way conversation. And the more buy-in there is from people at all levels, the better the outcome for the whole company.

 

What’s more, if a company has a culture that celebrates and supports women and diversity throughout, it will appeal to more people and attract more talent.   In a nutshell, businesses need to see diversity as not just a “nice-to-have”, but as a pillar of their overall business strategy.

 

 

 

 

[1]Analysis by Cranfield School of Management

[2] Analysis by Cranfield School of Management

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