Gender equality in the workplace

Today, women are more courageous and empowered than ever, due to an extensive catalogue of strong women stepping up to the plate that have campaigned for their place in the world as we know it today. Gender equality in the workplace is a complicated space. Sex discrimination has been prohibited since 1975, however, it continues to be an issue women face daily.

Empowering strides have moved in legislation surrounding pregnancy and sexual harassment, and the pay gap is sluggishly closing. However, these issues are still damaging organisational reputations’ and negatively impacting both employee engagement and experience.

Data showcasing notable women in the workplace and in leadership highlights sex equality moving in the right direction, but there is still a long way to go.

gender equality

Types of gender discrimination in the workplace

Sexual harassment

In recent years gender equality has been forced into the limelight, with the rise of the Me-Too movement and a string of prominent cases in the media. Women have taken up arms and are battling against the unacceptable behaviour that they have and are experiencing.

Up for discussion more openly than ever before, is how organisations manage sexual harassment and why women often face barriers and poor experiences when reporting it.

A light is shining on how organisations manage sexual harassment, with a need for enhanced awareness of what is required to protect employees and the legal responsibilities organisations have in protecting their employees.

Pregnancy and maternity discrimination 

Though the Equality Act 2010 is in place to protect against pregnancy and maternity discrimination, numerous issues are still present for both expecting and new parents, who are experiencing disadvantages in the workplace.

The wider society still maintains the role of a woman is to be the primary caregiver. Policies burden women with an expectation to stay at home with the children.

Guidance on ensuring organisations safeguard and implement a culture that supports equality is an area that we support.

Can you make a difference in gender equality?  

The simple answer is yes! 

In our experience, companies are keen to support women in the workplace. They can do this by employing a culture that welcomes female leaders, providing secure anti-discrimination policies to protect women during maternity and sexual harassment situations.

Handling grievances at work is challenging for all concerned – even more so when the accusation is discrimination. These could be ‘my manager sexually harassed me‘ or ‘I have experienced different treatment since I announced my pregnancy‘.

Under equality law, employers will be legally responsible for workplace harassment unless they can evidence that they have taken reasonable steps to prevent it. Known as the ‘reasonable steps’ defence, this suggests a more proactive and engaged approach is needed.

The employer owes a duty of care to employees to accurately gather evidence, and investigate acts of discrimination. However, prevention is better than remedy, and promoting a culture of equal opportunities creates a safe working environment for all.

How can we support gender equality? 

Take note of opportunities 

Without asking the tough questions, you will not know the real experiences of others. By gathering data and analysing your core standpoint surrounding equality, you can understand where gender equality improvement opportunities lie. Be honest and do not hide behind the problem.

Champion pro-women policies

Senior employees have the power to promote equal opportunities, by setting pro-women policies such as flexible, remote, or job-sharing opportunities. Flexibility for all genders can improve the ability for women to work more easily around their commitments.

Implement training 

Current leaders are the linchpin for setting a good example, above all acting as role models to champion equal opportunities. Implementing training to ensure leaders understand how to manage conflict effectively and pre-emptively, is a great way to support gender equality.

Increase your awareness 

For male-dominated organisations, creating awareness is vital. You cannot change things you are unaware of; by creating a space where employees can speak openly. In addition, you can learn about the challenges women face and avoid evidently and concealed bias.

Implement steps to develop female talent

Development programmes should be available to all employees for their individual growth within your organisation. Encouraging development among all employees will allow your business to become an industry leader and increase sales and growth potential.

Ensure airtight policies 

To foster an organisational culture that supports gender equality, we must ensure that policies are in place. In addition, policies should encourage speaking up about harassment and clearly define actionable steps to take when reporting it.

In conclusion, you should instil a clear understanding amongst your employees that discrimination is not welcome; that your organisation takes on a zero-tolerance approach and will act against harassment.

For practical advice on implementing effective policies and a culture that supports gender equality, get in touch.