The gender pay gap reporting deadline is just around the corner. For many businesses, it presents the perfect opportunity to reflect on existing diversity and inclusion (D&I) practices when it comes to gender equality.

That’s because, despite great strides in businesses’ efforts to improve equality, results from 2022’s report submissions found that women still earn 14.9% less than men – meaning there’s still an incredibly long way to go.

gender equality

Why does the gender pay gap matter?

Since 2017, UK organisations with over 250 employees have been required to publicly state their gender pay gap figures; meaning the issue of gender inequality in the workplace is not forgotten. Whilst there is, of course, the clear issue that women deserve to be paid a fair rate for their work, there’s also a strong business case for not slacking when it comes to meaningful D&I initiatives.

Diverse teams have quicker recovery from financial setbacks, better resilience across the workforce, and higher employee loyalty than teams that aren’t. In fact, HR teams seen championing D&I are even deemed more trustworthy by their employees; an important factor to consider as many businesses tackle increasing turnover.

With the latest gender pay gap data top of mind, HR practitioners will no doubt be exploring what can be done to level the playing field in individual organisations. So, where’s the best place to start?

1. Get the most from your HR data

With gender pay gap figures newly collected, HR professionals are in a prime position to take a deep dive into the numbers and unearth the story behind any pay disparities that may have been revealed.

When diving into the data, it may be helpful to consider a few key questions. For example:

  • Which job roles and departments show the most disparity?
  • When hiring, what is the percentage of women versus men in the applicant pool?
  • What links can be made between the pay gap data and your organisation’s succession plan?
  • Does it appear that female employees are getting the same access to development opportunities as their male colleagues?

HR software with an intuitive HR data Insights module can make it even simpler to view graphical data and pull in-depth reports; meaning understanding the numbers doesn’t have to become a labour-intensive task.

Important to remember is that, although the facts behind pay disparities can be uncomfortable, they’re also incredibly important to face. Make sure to dig deep into the data you have to hand, and aim to discover the real barriers to female progression in your organisation.

2. Review your approach to hiring and recruitment

Could your job adverts be inadvertently driving away female applicants? For example, LinkedIn’s 2019 Gender Insights Report found that women apply to around 20% fewer roles than men, and that this was especially true for more senior positions.

When it comes to writing effective job adverts, then, it’s important to be mindful about the requirements listed. Are all of them essential, or are some simply ‘nice-to-haves’ that could put off potential talent?

In the same report, LinkedIn highlighted that salary and benefits information are considerably more important to female applicants than to their male counterparts. Your job adverts should signal a commitment to transparency and fair pay. Including a salary range in your listings is one of the most effective ways to portray that your business cares.

3. Explore flexible working trends

In the post-pandemic work climate, there are more resources than ever to assist with a smooth transition to more flexible working practices. And, since a third of working mothers report having flexible working arrangements (compared with 23.6% of working fathers), it could make a considerable difference to retaining female talent in your business, too.

When it comes to supporting working parents, it’s also essential to consider your organisation’s approach to maternity leave. New research by That Works For Me uncovered that less than a quarter of women return to full-time work after having children; and of those in senior positions, the pressure to take a shorter maternity leave is particularly high.

By introducing more flexible working practices, employers have a better chance of retaining valuable female talent – and, importantly, making sure women’s careers don’t stall unnecessarily. HR has an important role to play in educating leadership about the benefits of embracing flexible working, and getting creative with the measures put in place to ensure a successful return from maternity leave.

4. Review complaint procedures

Although joking with colleagues can be harmless fun, it’s easy for ‘friendly banter’ to develop into something more toxic – and sometimes actively discriminatory – comments and digs. And for women in the workplace (particularly when it comes to male-dominated fields), it can be difficult to know where to turn if an issue does arise.

For HR, then, it’s essential to convey that discriminatory concerns, big or small, will be taken seriously. Consider how your complaint procedures can be made accessible to all (perhaps in a digital workspace in your HR system), and ensure line managers are equipped to handle discrimination concerns with care.

5. Shine the spotlight on succession

Ultimately, paying attention to your company’s talent pipeline from the earliest stages will make all the difference when it comes to making an impactful long-term difference in your workplace.

HR practitioners should be ready to take a close look at how well women are truly represented on a business’ succession plan, and to consider taking positive action if they are not. Some useful questions to keep in mind could be:

  • Are women being given equal access to leadership training?
  • Could potential candidates for leadership roles be put off by a lack of existing female leaders?
  • Are current leaders in your business making an effort to involve female employees in new projects and business developments?

Career and succession planning tools can make strategic planning easier by helping to visualise talent pools and frame performance and potential in the wider context of an organisation’s goals. With the complete picture to hand, you can begin to make plans for effective, long-term improvements to gender equality in your organisation.

Chloe Turner author image

Chloe Turner

Graduating from the University of South Wales, Chloe is an experienced content marketing manager who's worked across the HR and legal business sectors.

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