Making Bold Changes following International Women’s Day

Yesterday, 8 March 2017, was International Women’s Day (“IWD”). This year’s theme was to #BeBoldForChange – to encourage women, men and non-binary people to take action to drive change for women for gender parity.

The World Economic Forum predicts that the gender pay gap will not close until 2186 – a phenomenally long time to wait for equality. As such, the campaign is hoping to drive people to bold action to accelerate gender parity.

From 6 April 2017, organisations with 250 or more employees will be required to publish statutory calculations every year showing the pay gap between their male and female employees. These results must be published on the employer’s own website and a government site. This means that the gender pay gap will be publicly available, including to customers, employees and potential future recruits.

There are no real sanctions for businesses which identify gender pay gaps following this reporting exercise, except for adverse PR. Therefore, IWD’s campaign is still very relevant in pushing companies to consider alternative, outside-of-the-box ways of reducing this gap and more quickly.

A First Women Summit was held last week (Tuesday 28 February 2017) at the Waldorf Hilton Hotel. This conference explored methods of obtaining equality and inclusion in the workplace by focussing on recruitment strategies, avoiding a lost generation of women lacking the confidence or ambition to become the female leaders of tomorrow, retaining talent and the sharing of stories from women in male-dominated environments such as the RAF, pilots and construction.

The speakers shared truly moving stories of their own rise to leadership within their respective fields and helpfully shared some of the steps they or their employers had taken to change the status quo. Such action included amending the wording of job adverts to make them more gender-neutral to attract more female candidates and those from a wider background. It also included bringing more males in to assist with the championing of equality within the workplace by appointing male champions for women and having men mentoring women rather than the traditional approach of females mentoring and/or discussing gender parity with females.

A key theme of the First Women Summit as well as the focus of the IWD campaign is to get involved yourself and consider what can be done to bring about change. Be bold for change – consider volunteering at your local school to show the next generation of women that they can achieve their ambitions and that they can get to the higher echelons of the workplace. Consider policies that can be introduced at work to attract and retain a diverse workforce and call out gender pay gaps where these arise. Last year’s IWD campaign was focussed on pledging for parity; now comes the time for businesses to take action on this pledge.

Samantha Prosser is an associate at leading employment law firm BDBF.