Whereas the gender pay gap has recently made the headlines, the gender gap representation goes far deeper and wider.
“In 2016, Credit Suisse found women only hold around 14% of board seats globally,” Lisa Gower of Ubuntu HR points out. “And women face barriers that can limit their opportunities, such as childbirth and subsequent childcare, alongside unconscious bias in many organisations.”
Alongside pay, leadership is a key gender gap issue in business, both globally and in the UK.
Barriers to Progression?
Many women who are parents want to return to work after their maternity leave, just as many men would want to take on more hands-on parenting. The culture is changing, but is there sufficient support in the workplace?
“Flexible working is a good start for enabling more women to get back into work, and, ultimately, to progress there,” Lisa suggests.
“Workplaces should look at gender balance strategically, putting it officially on the agenda with accompanying initiatives”
“These could include skill-building, mentoring and coaching aimed at developing leaders,” offers Lisa.
Lisa also points out that the aim is not to create an advantage for women over men, but to make it a level playing field. “It’s about making female talent conspicuous, developing it, and bringing on the next level of female leaders,” she says.
“What many organisations’ unconscious bias does is allow women to foster their own self-limiting beliefs, so there needs to be a conscious, organisational effort to make changes”
The answer to who benefits might seem obvious, but in fact equality is an issue for everyone, women and men.
“It’s about taking responsibility,” advises Lisa. “If male CEOs treat it as not their issue and simply pass it on to HR departments to deal with, then they’re missing the point.”
“Businesses and organisations need to be adaptable and ready to meet future challenges. This means having a fully engaged workforce, both men and women, and having leaders who are role models for all”
“No business benefits from gender imbalance,” Lisa says, “and the sooner everyone realises this, and is prepared to act on it, the better.”
This means organisations showing leadership, empowering women to be decision-makers at board level and to raise awareness of unconscious bias, and make people accountable for changing it.
“This is not a diversity box-ticking exercise,” Lisa concludes, “it’s about how we all should be working in the future.”