With the recent focus on equal pay and creating opportunities for women at board level positions, if you are a business owner, supporting the women in your workplace is definitely on your To Do list.
According to the Government’s 2015 Longitudinal Small Business Survey, 79% of UK SMEs are led by men, with either a single man leading the company, or a majority-male board. This absence of women in leadership roles makes it even more important for small business owners to make sure that women are finding a safe and supportive environment.
What are the concerns and how can you address them?
The first concern of women in the workplace is fairly apparent – there is an obvious lack of mentors available to help support their growth.
Cindy Gallop, long time women’s rights advocate, explains what type of support women need:
“I urge women not to look for just mentors, but even more importantly to find champions… A champion is the person who behind closed boardroom doors, slams their fists on the table and says, ‘If there is only room in the budget for one pay raise in my division, it’s going to Jane not John.’ It’s very easy for men to find champions because they’re usually working for other men. A senior man will look at a junior man and say, ‘Reminds me of myself at his age.’ Women need what men get all the time at work which is men (can be a woman, but depressingly, it’s men at the top) who will go out on a limb for them, who actually champion them even if it’s not the most popular opinion. Women don’t get that enough. Women need to find champions, people who will make things happen for them.”[bctt tweet=”‘Women need to find champions, people who will make things happen for them,’ Cindy Gallop.” username=””]
If you don’t have someone who is naturally taking on this role, appoint someone. Give them the guidelines to get to know the women in your office, their skillsets and contributions to the business, so when it comes time to discuss salary and promotions you will have someone at the table with the right information and insights.
The second concern of women in the workplace is, unfortunately, their safety.
The Trade Union Congress represents more than 6 million UK workers, half of whom are women. In a recent survey of 1,500 of their female members, more than 50% had experienced some form of sexual harassment in the workplace.[bctt tweet=”In a survey of 1,500 women, more than 50% had experienced some form of sexual harassment in the workplace.” username=””]
The full report, compiled with the help of the Everyday Sexism Project, goes on to provide clear recommendations to employers on how they can help prevent harassment and discrimination. Among the recommendations are suggestions to provide a fair amount of regular jobs, a clear zero tolerance policy and training so that everyone is clear on where the line is.
The third concern of women in the workplace is being treated as equals – with equal pay and equal opportunities for advancement.
If you worry about being forced to reveal your gender pay gap, you’re probably already in trouble. The issue of pay gaps is a far larger topic of conversation than selectively boosting salaries to tick boxes.
A pay cheque should be a reflection of your employees’ skills, performance and responsibility level. It should not be a reflection on their gender. If your employees are unfairly salaried, it is a clear sign that you likely have an unfair work culture.[bctt tweet=”A pay cheque should be a reflection of your employees’ skills, performance and responsibility level.” username=””]
The best and easiest way to determine whether or not you have an issue is to do the legwork of checking salaries and titles across your business. Where you see people at the same level in similar roles, are you seeing similar salaries? If not, can the differences be attributed to clear, evidenced differences in performance or experience? If you can’t defend the difference, chances are you have a case of discriminatory pay. Conduct the same exercise by looking only at gender. Are most or all of your managers male? If so, you might have a problem.
Should you feel that you and your team may benefit from additional training on the topic of equality, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) offers a number of free, useful guides and videos on the topic on their website. You can use them to understand both the legal requirements as well as best practices.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission states, “Organisations that treat staff fairly may find an increase in productivity that comes from higher morale and employee commitment. They’ll also find it easier to recruit and retain a skilled workforce as well as sustaining or improving their reputation.” The sooner you make equality, fairness and support part of your standard business practices, the more likely you are to see the benefits of such policies reflected in your bottom line.