In the past, we have looked at the benefits of diversity in the workplace in general, but in this article, we are going to concentrate on one particular area of diversity: gender.
A Fall In The Equality Rankings
In 2019, the UK fell six places in the gender equality rankings according to the World Economic Forum. The UK fell from 15th position to 21st position when it comes to rankings for most equal nation in the world – one of the only industrialised nations to slip rather than climb.
That’s certainly not an encouraging statistic. Following the recent general election, it remains to be seen what the Conservative government will do to deal with the issue in the light of those WEF findings.
The gender pay gap is an issue, as is the number of women not going on to leadership roles. Currently, there are also three times more women than men in part time roles and they are often on lower wages. More women need to be in professional roles and leadership positions.
Governments certainly have a part to play in tackling issues with gender diversity in the workplace. But that doesn’t mean that employers can’t play their own part in tackling the issue in their own workplace.
Another issue that affects the lack of gender diversity in some sectors and professions is the fact that some roles are seen as traditionally male or traditionally female.
For example, women are more likely to go into nursing or teaching than men. 89% of UK nurses are female, yet men hold one in five of the best paid nursing jobs according to this study by London South Bank University. As well as a lack of gender diversity in the nursing profession, this also highlights stark gender pay inequality.
Teaching is also seen as a traditionally female profession. In 2017 3 out of 4 school teachers were female. Although the situation is improving and more women are going into leadership roles in schools, men are still getting promoted more quickly than women.
Traditionally male roles are seen to be in areas such as IT and engineering. According to these statistics by the Women’s Engineering Society, women make up only 12.37% of the UK’s engineers whilst 21.8% work in the engineering sector (including engineers). 46.4% of girls aged 11-14 would consider a career in engineering but this percentage decreases as they reach age 16 and then again at 18.
In the case of the engineering sector, some companies are not reaching out to schools and working with young people to introduce them to the world of engineering in the hope that some will go on to make engineering their future career.
And, of course, when we consider the issue of gender diversity in the workplace, we also need to consider members of the LGBTQ community and those people who identify as non-binary.
What Can You Do To Encourage Gender Diversity In Your Workplace?
So, with all of this in mind, what can you, as an employer, do in your workplace to encourage gender diversity in your workplace? And what are the benefits for your company if you do work towards more gender diversity?
Depending on the sector you are working in, you might be fully aware of the need for more gender diversity in your workplace. This is especially the case if you work in one of those areas where roles are seen as traditionally male or female. But in other sectors, it might not be so pronounced.
If you do get a good balance when it comes to gender diversity in your workplace, this can be of great benefit to you as an employer.
A diverse range of people means a diverse range of ideas which could lead to more innovation within your company. You will have more insight about the wants and needs of your customers because they will be better represented by your staff. And you also have more opportunity to boost your customer base and make this more diverse as a result of the gender diversity in your workplace. Studies have found that gender diversity in the workplace boosts a company’s financial performance.
If you build a good reputation as a company that embraces and encourages gender diversity, this will also be useful during recruitment periods as more people will want to work for your company.
Look Around Your Company
Before designing and implementing any strategies that will encourage gender diversity in your workplace, first of all take a look around your company and highlight any areas or departments that you think could benefit from being more gender diverse.
Speak openly with your staff and ask them how they feel about the company culture. Is it a good place to work? Do they feel respected regardless of their gender? Do they feel the company is inclusive?
First of all, there needs to be a culture amongst your existing staff where they all feel respected and equal, regardless of their gender.
If promotions become available, which of your staff puts themselves forward for the promotion? Again, create a culture amongst your team where everyone feels they are capable of growth within the company. Mentoring schemes where young recruits, regardless of their gender, are encouraged to reach their full potential, can help in this regard and can result in more diverse company leadership.
Creating a culture where gender diversity is both encouraged and respected will not happen overnight but getting that culture in place is important. And the job doesn’t rest with one person. Everyone in the company needs to be onboard and actively creating that culture; having each level of your management working towards this and to be seen to be working towards this will cascade down to all members of staff.
Look At Your Job Ads
Unconscious bias plays a part in stifling gender diversity in the workplace. When it comes to recruitment, take the time to critically assess your job ad. Who does it appeal to? Whilst you may be hoping to attract applications from a gender diverse range of graduates or Apprentices, is your job ad targeting that diversity?
Women are less likely to apply for jobs if they feel they are not 100% qualified to do the role. Men, on the other hand, are happy to apply if they feel they are 60% qualified. Make the focus of your ad about what your applicants can achieve whilst working for your company rather than the list of qualifications and experience you are looking for before they can apply.
Also, women are deterred from applying for roles where the language in the job ad is seen as masculine because they feel it is more of a role for men. Some examples of (perceived) male-coded words are:
Meanwhile, there could be vocabulary in your job ad that is discouraging men from applying because they see your role as a female role. Examples of words that could give this impression are:
The wording of your job ad is therefore important as you are missing out on a lot of the best young talent out there before the application stage and you are limiting your chances of creating a more gender diverse workplace.
Have An Interview Team
Unconscious bias can also occur at interview level when you are recruiting young graduates and school leavers. Depending on the size of your company, it can prove useful to have a team of interviewers rather than just one person so that you have a diverse range of views.
A structured set of questions will mean each candidate will be asked the same things regardless of their gender and your team can then discuss who they think is the best person for the job. Your team of interviewers should be as diverse as possible so that you have a range of viewpoints as to why a candidate should or should not be offered the role.
Interviews can be multi-layered and take the form of formal questions. But you could also introduce more informal open days, tours or lunches where candidates can get the opportunity to meet existing members of staff. If candidates see a company with an obvious culture of gender diversity, this can lead to them becoming more confident that they will be accepted in your workplace. It will also make them more confident when being more formally interviewed by your interview team.
Flexible Working Hours
Some industries lend themselves better to the opportunity for flexible working hours over others but having this in place in your company is good for both recruitment and staff retention.
With regards to gender diversity, flexible working hours can mean young female candidates can be attracted to apply for your roles because they will feel that they are accommodated if they decide to start a family. Their career won’t be put on hold and they can continue to progress to higher leadership roles. Likewise, for males, they can take on more or a role with their young family by working flexible hours.
Transparency Around Pay
The gender pay gap is not going away and if you can be seen as a company that is both transparent and fair when it comes to staff pay, then your chances of a gender diverse workforce will be boosted.
For some types of company, it might be possible to introduce a tiered system where staff salaries increase with more experience or more responsibility. Regardless of gender, staff on a particular tier are all paid the same. If everyone in the company knows the progression on the pay scale, this eliminates suspicion and feelings of unfair treatment.
Look At Your Exit Interviews
Inevitably, at some point, members of staff will leave your company and there are various reasons as to why they will be leaving. If possible, hold an exit interview for that member of staff and encourage them to be completely honest in their reasons for leaving.
Over time, as you build up a bank of reasons, you might be able to spot a trend as to why more women are leaving or why more men are leaving. This can help you to then implement strategies in your workplace so that you can both retain and recruit a more gender-diverse workforce.
Creating a culture where gender diversity is encouraged and embraced in the workplace can take time. It is not just a case of writing a policy and then paying lip service to it. Attracting and retaining a gender diverse workplace is an ongoing process that needs to be worked on and developed constantly.
Aside from a feel-good factor that you are doing something laudable, benefits to you as an employer are the potential to gain more respect from your customer base, the building of a more diverse customer base, a potential increase in company profits. And , when it comes to recruitment, you could find yourself with applications form a whole range of young candidates.