How companies can ensure gender equality in the workplace
Gemma Lloyd, co-founder, Work180. Image: Work180

How companies can ensure gender equality in the workplace

22 Oct 2018817 Views

Gender pay reporting is coming to Ireland, but companies still have time to improve their culture for women in the workplace.

This year has had several turning points when it comes to the gender pay gap. At the beginning of 2018, Iceland made it a requirement for organisations of more than 25 people to seek government certification of their equal pay policies.

Three months later, the final deadline passed for UK-based organisations with 250 employees or more to publish and report specific figures about their gender pay gap.

As neighbours of the UK, Ireland has been watching the results of that requirement closely and it seems gender pay reporting is a certainty for the island.

However, Ireland still has a long way to go. Only five months ago, a report found that two-thirds of Irish employers are worried about how gender pay reporting will affect their reputation, yet 70pc of organisations surveyed had yet to examine whether any gender pay gap exists within their company.

While the gender pay reporting legislation will be a step in the right direction, forcing companies to potentially reveal discrepancies, there’s a lot more to gender inequality in the workplace than pay.

A lack of female employees in general, or a disproportionate amount of men at management levels, is a serious issue across the board, and in the tech industry in particular.

Gemma Lloyd spent 10 years in the tech industry and throughout that time, she found two different workplace structures: the archaic ‘boys’ club’ structure, where being a woman meant less money and fewer opportunities, and the structure where all employees were valued equally.

Obviously, if we were presented with those options outright we would all choose the second one but, when a lot of those elements are hidden from public view, how can anyone be sure which structure they’re walking into when interviewing for a job?

That’s when Lloyd decided to start Work180. “The platform would have strict rules around the kind of jobs it listed, with an emphasis on pay equity, flexible working, women in leadership and paid parental leave,” she said.

“We would ask employers these important questions, then make the information publicly available, so that women would have an insight into the culture of a business before applying to work there.”

She said that during the pre-screening phase, they also take into account initiatives that focus on age, ability, ethnicity and sexual orientation. “We continually review and evolve our pre-screening criteria to ensure workplaces are fair and equal for everyone.”

Lloyd added that when a company fails to meet Work180’s criteria, but recognise the need for change, they advise the company on how they can improve.

What should Irish employers do?

Gender pay reporting has been in place in the UK since April 2018, and the wheels for similar legislation in Ireland are already in motion. So, what can Irish employers do ahead of the publishing of those results?

The first and possibly easiest change companies can make, Lloyd suggests, is not asking job candidates what their previous or current salary is during the interview process. Employers such as Zendesk, MSD and Amazon Web Services have already banned this practice and are endorsed by Work180.

Lloyd also said that “making flexible working arrangements available to all employees for any reason, evaluating quotas (or targets) for women in leadership positions, and focusing on their succession and talent management to ensure women in their organisations are afforded equal opportunities to promotion” are other changes organisations can start implementing.

“Another Work180-endorsed employer, Aecom, seeks out high-performing female employees who were not as proactive in demanding a pay rise or applying for senior roles as their male colleagues, and topping up their pay,” she said. “In addition, when hiring women, the company compares their salary expectations to what their male peers at the company are receiving to make sure they are not selling themselves short.”

As an Australian native, Lloyd said she has really pushed for Australian employers to refer to paid parental policies with gender-neutral terms, and firmly believes it is something other countries should adopt.

“In the UK, we hear employers talk about ‘maternity’ and ‘paternity’ leave instead of using the gender-neutral terms. A good example of an organisation who is forward-thinking in this space in the UK is FundApps, who recently made access to primary and secondary carer leave available to anyone, regardless of gender.”

Things still need to change

Lloyd said when it comes to the tech industry in general, there is still plenty of work that needs to be done. “Unfortunately, there are still a lot of the archaic ‘boys’ club’ environments about. In saying this, we’re seeing amazing initiatives, particularly from Work180-endorsed employers to ensure they are providing truly inclusive environments for women in tech.”

She also said that the misconception that women lack confidence needs to go. “Research has shown that this isn’t the case, it’s just that women and men are rewarded differently for displaying confidence,” she said.

“This comes down to the societal norms placed on gender roles and that women who appear more confident are less likeable. Therefore, we have been ‘conditioned’ to be more modest within the workplace, despite being confident in our abilities.”

Furthermore, women in the workplace should heed Lloyd’s advice when it comes to what she wishes she knew early on: “That I didn’t need to stay at an organisation which didn’t provide me with equal opportunities and pay, even though I was outperforming my male peers!”

Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny is the Careers Editor at Siliconrepublic.com, although she prefers to be known as Careers Overlord. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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