Happy International Women’s Day!!

In the spirit of all things feminine , this special bulletin begins by talking about the benefits of more female leaders in the work-place.It includes some information on the current UK gender pay gap and employer’s obligations.

Female leaders in the work place

In 2021, the proportion of women in senior management roles globally grew to 31%, the highest number ever recorded, according to research undertaken by Grant Thornton (here ); 90% of companies worldwide have at least one woman in a senior management role as of 2021.

Whilst the research shows that women leaders are still more likely to be HR directors compared to other roles, this proportion has decreased from 2020 to 2021. In the same time frame, the proportion of women in other leadership roles like CEO, Chief Finance Officer, and Chief Information Officer has increased. In 2021, 26% of all CEOs and managing directors were women, compared to only 15% in 2019

Why we should still get more!
A few decades back the term leadership’ was often viewed as masculine behaviour. It was often a pre-set conception that men make more effective leaders, while women lack this quality as they are overly emotional and sensitive.

However, research shows that women often make better leaders and employees. They  can be furnished with skills that help them to perform their job and run a business more efficiently than males.

Harvard regularly undertakes research on this (See: women score higher than men in most leadership skills ) and in 2020 their research looked at the effectiveness of leaders in the pandemic and again women came out on top (See: women are better leaders in a crisis).

Research has found that being intuitive, understanding, persuasive and working collaboratively can help women handle a team better than men.

While men can be more authoritative, women have been found to use a more participative leadership style to manage a team. They share information, welcome others’ points of views and build strong relational skills which make them seem concerned to their team players.

Women can be better communicators, motivators and know how to generate a feeling of togetherness in a team. Women can be givers; they enjoy inspiring others to excel in their jobs. This quality can make women excellent long-term strategic thinkers.

Due to their emphatic nature, they can decode other emotions and build strong work relationships with employees. Qualities such as patience, intuition and optimism  can help women win everyone’s heart and influence others to give their best to achieve something big.


Other Advantages of Gender Diversity

As well as leadership qualities, encouraging gender diversity in the work place generally can have lots of advantages and benefits, not only for employees but also employers. For example;

Wider talent pool

  1. Companies that don’t encourage women to join them are missing out on the talents and abilities of half the population. Tapping into these can make a huge difference to your productivity and your bottom line.
  2. Different perspectives

    Having both women and men in your teams means you benefit from the different points of view and approaches that come from different life experiences. A multiplicity of perspectives can spark creativity and innovation, and help organizations spot and seize new opportunities. It can also encourage organizations to challenge gender stereotypes.

  3. Enhanced collaboration

    Having women on teams can help improve team processes and boost group collaboration. Researchers have observed that women have stronger skills reading non-verbal cues.

    They also conclude that groups with more women were better at taking turns in conversation, which helps them make the most of the groups combined knowledge and skills.

    This will benefit groups both when they’re collaborating on projects face-to-face. And it will also help when employees use modern business communication tools that enable people to share ideas, start conversations and collect feedback.

  4. Improved staff retention

    Having an inclusive culture in your workplace boosts morale and opportunity. Inclusive workplaces tend to have lower employee churn rates – which represents big savings in terms of time and money spent on recruitment.

  5. A better reflection of your customers

    Customers come from all walks of life. The more the make-up of your organization reflects your customers the more likely it is you’ll communicate effectively with them.

    That means making sure your teams have a diversity of genders, as well as backgrounds and ethnicities. Women are hugely influential when it comes to making purchasing decisions – in 2018, women globally spent about 40 trillion US dollars.



Mind the gap : The difference in pay between men and women

Dependant on the research source, the the gender pay gap in the UK still stands at somewhere between 10% and 15.4% (see here).

Reasons for this include:

  • A lack of flexible working options
  • Women being the main providers of unpaid caring responsibilities
  • Occupational segregation
  • The undervaluing of women’s work
Pay discrimination

If not addressed, this gap not only disadvantages individuals, but means employers miss out on a wealth of talent as they risk their reputation as a fair and inclusive employer.

Stereotyping women’s capabilities and skills results in women being clustered into predominantly female occupations that are associated with low pay. These include cleaning, catering, admin, care, and retail. There are also barriers, sometimes called ‘the glass ceiling’, which make women less likely to be found in management and senior positions.

As set out in the Equality Act 2010, men and women in the same employment performing equal work must receive equal pay, unless any difference in pay can be justified.

Currently employers with 250 or more employees, need to report their Gender Pay Gap annually  – see here.

By April this year however the government has committed to reviewing this and possible changes could include extending this to smaller employers (although this is not considered likely just yet) or making the larger employers not just report on the figures but come up with an Action Plan to reduce any gap. I will of course report any changes when they happen.

Meantime for any employer wanting to look at their own gender pay, the European Human Rights Commission, in conjunction with the Chartered Management Institute, has published a toolkit containing practical actions to help employers address their gender pay gaps – see here.

Gender Equality in the Work Place

Gender equality in the workplace means employees of every gender have access to the same rewards, opportunities, and resources at a company, including:
  • Equal pay and benefits for comparable roles with similar responsibilities.
  • Equal opportunities for promotions and career progression.
  • Equal consideration of needs
The legislation in place designed to ensure this includes the Equality Act 2010, which includes sex, pregnancy and maternity and gender reassignment as protected characteristics. It covers both direct discrimination and what can be less easy to spot, indirect discrimination where an employer applies a provision, criterion or practice which makes it harder for one protected group to comply with than others. For example, making a job full time can indirectly discriminate against women as it is accepted that in the population as a whole, they are more likely to undertake a higher proportion of the childcare responsibilities).

Gender inequality however in the workplace takes many forms — unequal pay, disparity in promotions, incidents of sexual harassment, Often, it presents itself in more nuanced ways, like fewer opportunities for women who are mothers.

As an employer you should consider ways to minimise gender inequality within the workplace, some ways that you can do this include

  • Make a longer shortlist when recruiting
  • Remove the gender pay gap
  • Use skill-based assessments to reduce the risk of unfair bias
  • Have women mentor men
  • Make work-life balance a priority

Menopause at work and the laws surrounding it

According to the ACAS  Menopause at Work guidance (see here),  the menopause usually happens between 45 and 55 years of age but it can also happen earlier or later in someone’s life. For many people pre-menopausal symptoms last about 4 years, but in some cases, can last a lot longer.

Managing the menopause at work can be a very stressful and difficult time and although menopause isn’t directly a protected characteristic, less favourable treatment by an employer could be classed as discriminatory if it relates to a protected characteristic such as age or disability.

Employers should make sure they know how the menopause relates to the law, including the:

  • Equality Act 2010, which protects workers against discrimination
  • Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, which says an employer must, where reasonably practical, ensure everyone’s health, safety and welfare at work
Although it may be difficult it is important to make reasonable adjustments for staff if they are struggling, not only will it follow guidelines, but it will also make employees feel more supported in the workplace. The ACAS page above has further guidance on this and they put on online training courses. The CIPD last year also published a useful guide for managers which can be found here