Employers need to be taking action now, more than ever, to ensure that their workplaces are free from gender inequality. In the modern workplace, employers are experiencing major talent retention challenges, with an expected talent deficit of 3 million workers by the end of the decade. Although progress has been made in eradicating gender inequality, it needs to happen quicker, and this could make a powerful difference not only to individuals, but to company performance.
The current situation
Randstad UK surveyed 6,000 workers across the UK in a number of key industries, to understand how employees are impacted by gender discrimination and what action they want to see from their employers. Randstad’s report notes that, while there remains significant room for improvement, there has been some positive progress over the last few years. The percentage of female employees working in construction, a typically male-dominated industry, who have never had a female line manager has dropped from 52% four years ago to 38%. Similarly, the number of surveyed women in the construction industry reporting inappropriate behaviour has decreased by 16% over the last two years.
Despite this progress, gender inequality still exists. 72% of female workers have reported either encountering some form of inappropriate behaviour, or witnessing inappropriate behaviour from male colleagues. Meanwhile, only 18% of female workers across all industries report never having experienced some form of gender-based discrimination in the workplace. Examples of this discrimination include reports of not being offered work due to pregnancy, male counterparts receiving greater pay rises despite worse performance, and having ideas and contributions overlooked and then attributed to male colleagues. The report notes that it is not only women that are affected by discrimination. In sectors such as education and care, where men are underrepresented, they face many of the detrimental barriers that a minority gender can experience.
Why is action necessary?
The problem is not that there is a lack of progress, but that progress needs to be made more quickly. The pandemic has seen attrition rates rise across all sectors. In the healthcare industry, a third of survey respondents stated they had plans to leave their jobs in the next three months, and a further 29% were undecided as to whether they would stay in the same job. The reasons cited for this were stress, a lack of flexible working options, and the culture of long hours. Healthcare employers can address these specific concerns by offering flexible working where job requirements permit. They can also look at improved childcare options. These are important steps to ensure women remain in the healthcare system, and that further pressure is not placed on an already understaffed service.
Employers are at a pivotal point. The report has flagged many areas that they can work on. One of these is providing and promoting more initiatives to help transition women into senior and leadership positions. With many workers seeking greater training, another is to introduce mentoring programmes and increase training resources and development programmes. Employers can also play a role in improving support for women by providing free or subsidised childcare, greater flexibility where possible to allow for better work-life balance and increasing support for women during the menopause. The report has highlighted that there are many practical actions which, if implemented, could make a great difference to employee morale and wellbeing, as well as the success of their company.