Today, organisations across the world are recognising International Women’s Day. Since its inception in the early 1900s, International Women’s Day has created an opportunity to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. It’s a sad truth that over a century later we still need a day to mark out the contributions of half the global population but, as we know, even in the 21st century, far too many women are still having to fight to be taken seriously, to be given a job offer, a promotion and, in some instances, equal pay.
Gender pay gap reporting in the UK has thrust a welcome, evidence-based spotlight onto the issue of pay and opportunities for women at work. In many ways it’s a blunt instrument, based on a few key data points, but the conversations it is generating and the truths it is forcing businesses to acknowledge and explore are immensely valuable.
Many of those conversations will be heard at today’s CIPD Gender Pay Gap Conference as people management professionals explore ways of removing barriers to women’s progression in the workplace.
While companies are only obliged to publish four types of figures, the CIPD and the UK Government are urging organisations to publish a transparent narrative about the factors that are driving their gender pay gap and the actions they are taking to close the gap. These narratives are crucial: the stories they tell, the trends they track and the insights they provide hold the key to understanding some of the factors that are shaping women’s experience of work.
And this is one of the most interesting things we’re seeing about gender pay gap reporting: it’s far less about pay and much more about the gender imbalance in organisations. Where gender pay gaps exist, the vast majority of firms are putting it down to the fact that there are more men in senior level positions in the business and more women in lower level roles.
Perhaps this isn’t surprising. Women are still the main caregiver in families, for both young children and increasingly elderly relatives, and this is a key factor that limits many women’s progression and aspirations at work. Until we see greater equality of roles in the home and in society, it will be difficult to shift the dial in the workplace. Employers can support this by actively encouraging flexible working opportunities, job-shares and part-time roles, not just for women but for all working parents. By building more inclusive, more flexible workplaces we will, in time, narrow the gender pay gap.
These are deep-rooted societal issues that will take time to change, but it’s only by organisations being upfront about their workforce data, and their gender pay gap figures that business, government and other key stakeholders can come together and create meaningful solutions.
However, with just three weeks to go until the deadline for companies to report, the number of companies who have disclosed their pay gap data is still extremely low: just over 1,600 organisations out of a possible 9,000. The CIPD’s own Gender pay gap reporting guide provides plenty of practical advice. And, as it emphasises, positive steps such as flexible working will enable women, just as much as men, to reach their full potential at work.
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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.