International Women’s Day on 8 March was an opportunity to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and practical achievements of women. Celebrating women’s achievements dates back to 1909, when the US first designated a day to honour the garment workers’ strike in New York the year previously, where women protested for better pay and shorter working hours.
The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day was #BeBoldForChange, with a campaign calling on people to strive towards a better working world. A more gender-inclusive world.
The UK Government’s latest approach to tackling the issue involves its new gender pay gap legislation. The requirement for employers with 250 or more staff to report their organisation’s pay gap will come into force from next month.
Much focus for businesses this year will be on how they are going to tackle their gender pay gap. This will be particularly true for the financial services sector, which tops the list with an average gap of 30 per cent.
Why are we still talking about this issue in the 21st century? We have had the Equal Pay Act since 1970 and anti sex-discrimination legislation since 1975, yet women are still being paid less than their male equivalents, and remain under-represented in senior management and executive roles.
We are working hard to ensure women within our organisation fulfil their potential. We recently appointed our first female managing director, Julie Sadler, who is heading our Bankhall business. Julie is a fantastic leader and an inspiration to many of our female employees.
Together we have been celebrating the #BeBoldForChange campaign, with stories from our female leaders about how they feel they have contributed. I recently wrote a blog about the work I had done with our team in India to challenge the status quo and drive equality among our workforce based there, as well as how it has had a positive outcome for the business overall.
So, what should employers be doing to close gender pay gaps? Employees should expect communication about the gap to be honest and open as the first step towards addressing the problem. Meanwhile, employers should be looking closely at their remuneration and recruitment policies to ensure they are attractive to part-time and flexible workers at all levels in the business.
But changing policy alone will not be enough. Employers should be looking at how they can encourage women to develop and climb the career ladder by promoting talent programmes – and, again, not just for full-time employees but for those in part-time roles too.
The combination of all these positive steps will help to ensure we are recruiting and developing people from the widest pool of talent and skills. And surely that can only be a good thing for the future of our profession.
Lisa Winnard is HR and business services director at Sesame Bankhall Group