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  • Rachel Doyle

The gender pay gap is understood to be worse than it’s ever been - time to level the playing field

The gender pay gap is a complex subject that includes many variables which contribute to the on-going issue. Although progress has been made to tackle it, it’s not happening fast enough – recent statistics show that it has increased to 15.4% from 14.9% in 2020 – although it is still down from 17.4% in 2019.

So, how can companies work to level the playing field? Let’s start with discussing the reasons for the gender pay gap.

Common issues that affect gender pay gap

Women are still expected to be primary child carers

Although in many relationships and family units, women have become equal (if not the sole or major) breadwinners, they are still taking on most domestic chores, childcare, and emotional labour. This expectation, which hasn’t quite caught up with feminist and equality movements, puts added strain on women, forcing them to take on lower paid, flexible jobs to fit around child-rearing and other responsibilities.

It’s not necessarily that the expectation is driven by their partners either. Businesses are still not doing enough to support men to have extended paternity leave and where it is offered, it often isn’t taken due to fears of future impacts on their career such as being overlooked for promotion. On top of this gender bias permeates into childcare: when a child falls ill at school, it is always the mother who is contacted first.

We undervalue soft skills, often perceived as ‘feminine’

There is a lingering notion that women ‘choose’ lower paying jobs like nursing, care work and teaching, while men ‘choose’ higher risk and higher-level jobs that require more technical skills like surgery, engineering, construction. There are many reasons behind this perceived ‘choice’, however, one of the reasons these roles contribute to gender pay gap is that soft skills are often undervalued.

Conscious and unconscious bias that affects the way women are perceived in the workplace

Despite initiatives to champion women in the workplace, conscious and unconscious biases that have been around for centuries still linger in the workplace. Being perceived as less competent, less ambitious seriously harms professional women. We have heard that whilst businesses want to open up their inclusion policies to recruit more females into board positions, the perception is that they will be faced with a less experienced board member as a result.

Women are deterred from high-risk and high-earning roles from childhood

Starting with toys we buy children to the subjects we encourage them to study; women are frequently deterred from pursuing roles typically occupied by men. This continued in school, although inroads are being made, traditionally women have been discouraged or not allowed to focus on STEM subjects.Given the refocus on STEM subjects being open to any person and the effort that some schools are putting in on stamping out stigma, it is hopeful that future generations will see fewer restrictions on a woman’s career choice.

Lack of flexible work opportunities at higher levels

Senior, management, and technical roles often come with a demanding work schedule. Women who are taking on care responsibilities or child-rearing may be deterred from pursuing them or put under pressure to choose between family or work. Child care is very expensive so may not always be an option.

Solutions to close the gender pay gap

Offer flexible working at all levels

Flexible work opportunities should not be reduced to entry-level jobs! We need to offer them at any level so both men and women can make their careers work with their personal situation.

Flexible working shouldn’t just cover where you work but also how you work and when you work. Opening up true flexibility will allow you to hire those experienced, talented women who may not have been able to otherwise..

Eliminate bias in your company

Review your hiring processes, ensure women are not discouraged from applying to or working in senior roles. Think of how you can cultivate a work environment that is inclusive and supportive of everyone in the workplace.

Be transparent

Be clear in your job description and state the salary range. Pay transparency helps women negotiate their pay fairly. Prevent any bias of the applicant’s previous salary from affecting your decision too so be clear why you have a range and why a candidate would sit at the bottom or top of it before the hiring process

Offer quality part-time opportunities

Part-time opportunities should still be inclusive of high level and senior roles. This will allow more professionals to progress in their career, irrespective of their personal situation and care responsibilities. Or better still, offer true flexiblity.

All women’s experiences are not the same

As your company works towards closing the gender pay gap, it’s important to remember the intersectionality among women, too. Race, class, sexuality, and other factors will widen the gender pay gap even more and may lead to fewer opportunities. And the dangers of this gap worsening will result in uncertain financial situation, impacting women’s ability to truly have independence and security in their lives. Not to mention, companies that don’t practice diversity and inclusion are missing out on top talent to offer meaningful contribution to their workforce and are discouraging other talent from joining their business.

You should always be looking for the right person to hire so level the playing field so you can access all the talent out there and make sure you pay them the same, regardless of background, gender, ethnicity or previous salary (if their last employer didn’t pay them well and they are looking to leave then don’t make the same mistake). Talk to Auxeris, our experienced team of specialist recruiters understand the marketplace and the need for diverse talent.

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