Progress towards closing the economic gender gap has slowed down. According to the World Economic Forum, it will be another 169 years before we achieve economic gender parity on labour force participation, salaries and representation in leadership positions.

In response, this year’s International Women’s Day is a rallying call to be bold for change, encouraging sustained, progressive and bold action towards better gender balance.

So today, the CIPD, along with leading employers, has committed to improve gender balance in the workplace. In particular, this year the focus has been on tackling the specific challenges facing pregnant women and preventing new mothers from returning to work successfully.

The CIPD’s head of people, Brad Taylor, has pledged to ensure all line managers are confident and able to support working mothers, and he was joined by Nicola Paul, diversity and inclusion lead at the John Lewis Partnership, and Louisa Joseph, talent manager at the Royal Mail Group.

Others have pledged to ensure employees are aware of flexible working options and how to request them, including Niamh McNamara, head of HR at Novartis Global Service Centre in Dublin, and Amanda Rice, head of culture and inclusion at Nationwide.

The CIPD believes that public policy alone cannot address the imbalances between genders in the workplace. At the heart of the debate is corporate culture, so the CIPD’s members have a fundamental role to play in creating inclusive workplaces where everyone can contribute to the success of the organisation.

Work can and should be good for everyone. This should be the guiding principle for people professionals as they make decisions that affect the workplace, according to Peter Cheese, the CIPD’s chief executive. He added that it is the responsibility of the people profession to ensure that everyone feels safe, physically and emotionally at work, is treated fairly, and feels supported in their development and encouraged to contribute.

Improving gender diversity in the workplace is good for the business, as well as the individual. Dr Jill Miller, diversity and inclusion policy adviser, explains that employers who have invested in building inclusive workplaces will reap the rewards when it comes to attracting, engaging and retaining employees, gaining access to a much deeper talent pool. A more diverse workforce will also help a business connect with a broader customer base and unearth new opportunities.

As the membership body for HR, the CIPD stands ready to support its members in their journey towards better gender balance in the workplace. There are extensive resources available on its website, covering issues such as how to build the business case for greater diversity and how to manage a diverse workforce.

The CIPD has been working with the Equality Human Rights Commission on the Working Forward campaign, which aims to make workplaces the best they can be for pregnant women and new mothers. Together we are creating guidance on how to support working mothers and how best to introduce flexible working in an organisation. The CIPD has also partnered with Timewise on their Hire Me My Way Campaign and to run a mentoring programme, matching CIPD members with parent and carer returners to support them back into the workplace.

Enabling all talented employees to perform at their best, irrespective of their identity, will benefit employers and the wider economy, as well as the individual.

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Championing better work and working lives

About the CIPD

At the CIPD, we champion better work and working lives. We help organisations to thrive by focusing on their people, supporting economies and society for the future. We lead debate as the voice for everyone wanting a better world of work.