The discussion around the Gender Pay Gap has moved from the shock of the published figures to ‘What can or needs to be done to reduce the gap?’. A quick fix is extremely unlikely. Ultimately, the Gender Pay Gap is all about creating the opportunities for women to (continue to) move up in the ranks. And yes, promotion of women might have been overdue but doing this in itself is the first sign a company is serious about resolving the issue, but it does not stop there.
When Dame Helena Morrissey spoke at the Alfi conference recently, she made two points very clear. First to get long term and lasting results it is likely to get worse before it gets better; and second, it takes time to change company culture and bias as well as professional development through education and gaining experience.
So, what can companies do for women to ensure ongoing career development? Here are five ways which we believe will make a difference
Many argue working to change attitudes towards promoting women to more senior roles should be the first thing to tackle, but there is evidence that changing policy on diversity, employment, recruitment has a much bigger. Iris Bohnet, a behavioural economist at Harvard University says ‘diversity training programs have had limited success, and individual effort alone often invites backlash. Behavioural design offers a new solution. By de-biasing organizations instead of individuals, we can make smart changes that have big impacts’.
Analyse the data
Analysing the Gender Pay Gap data in detail could highlight business areas and departments where the issue is bigger, and possibly even show departments with a bias for not promoting women in more senior jobs. This enables a company to address these areas or even individuals immediately and supported by the aforementioned policy changes.
Over the past two decades, laboratory and survey evidence has suggested that men are significantly more likely to engage in salary negotiations than women, according to Harvard. Yet when women negotiate on behalf of another person they are as successful as men.Mentoring could help strengthen these negotiating skills but clearly the focus should not be only on remuneration but equally on improving the specific knowledge and skills, as well as understanding your industry and company.
Career breaks come in many different forms, although for women the main one is maternity leave. If this is longer than a year, when they to work they may face the “CV gap” which leaves them at a disadvantage. There is some work being done on Returnships, but more businesses should take this into account rationally and offer different approaches to working to ensure women should be able to return to jobs that match their skills. To retain talent, hey should also offer flexible working hours and the opportunity to work from home which makes returning to work more appealing.
Companies should ensure that employment practices are fair and there is no bias in recruitment across teams nor in the way job descriptions are worded. Equally there should not be any positive discrimination and trying to recruit women into teams simply because of their gender, and vice-versa. In line with offering more flexible working, fairness in pay for maternity, paternity and shared parental leave must be considered, as well as pay for part time staff.
Clearly this is not an exhaustive list of how to close the Gender Pay Gap and the ultimately chosen direction of a company will very much depend on their specific situation. Nevertheless, the above suggestions are fairly easy to implement and will show to employees that the company is serious about making a change.
It is never going to be a quick fix and might take at least 3-5 years before there is a significant change visible in the reported pay gaps, but change is afoot.
In the short term, due to the lead time of implementing change, the gap might even initially widen before closing.