Five ways we can champion equality in the workplace

The theme of International Women's Day 2023 is ‘Embrace Equity,’ but digging deeper, what can businesses do to go beyond embracing it, and towards championing and growing equity across the workplace?

Five ways we can champion equality in the workplace

The theme of International Women’s Day 2023 is ‘Embrace Equity,’ but digging deeper, what can businesses do to go beyond embracing it, and towards championing and growing equity across the workplace? While many companies prioritise flexibility, employee well-being, and diversity, some have achieved better representative equity than others. A good diversity, equity, and inclusion programme can help with awareness and hands-on action, however, dedicated efforts driving equity often start with having the right mindset, and the right culture.

Equity isn’t just a nice-to-have: it’s a must-have. To truly champion equity as a business, there are many practical actions we can take. In this article, I will discuss five practices that are demonstrably driving equity across our business, where I am proud to see my team play a positive and proactive role.

Ensure equal opportunities for advancement to leadership roles

Many companies report providing equal opportunities for career advancement, but then fail to ensure that women have significant representation in leadership. For years, fewer women have risen through the ranks because of the “broken rung” at the first step up to management. According to PwC’s Women in Work Index 2022, there is still only 34% female board representation across the UK.

It’s not enough just to hire enough women into entry or administrative roles. Ideally, we want to see more women in leadership roles, and, in our business, more women moving into tech-specific roles, an area where, in some businesses, women have been traditionally underrepresented. We’re pleased to report that at Wolters Kluwer we’ve seen an increase in women in tech-specific roles across our business (moving from 24% to 27.5% in 2022) and we intend to keep working to strike an equal balance.

Understand the circumstances surrounding equal advancement

If we want to truly champion diversity, we need to understand some of the circumstances that prevent women from being afforded senior roles, and do what we can to eradicate these.

For example, there is some research that suggests women are more selective when applying for jobs, particularly senior roles. 

For instance, in 2019, when LinkedIn published the results of its gender insights study How women find jobs differently, it was able to analyse the job search behaviour of its users in great detail. Despite viewing the same number of jobs as male users on the platform, women were found to be less likely to apply for positions they had viewed on the website, less likely to apply for positions that were more senior than their current position, but more likely to be awarded the role over men applying for the same position.

If we want to truly champion equity in the workplace, it’s important to give women the confidence that being able to do 70% or 80% of a job is a really good starting point – if you haven’t performed a management role before, you are not expected to have all of the skills to do so. Beyond this, businesses should try, where possible, to promote internally but also make sure that they provide the right support and training for their people to be successful in those roles

Work to understand the unique mental loads placed upon women

One thing that is still a big obstacle for many women is the mental load they have to carry along with trying to grow their career. According to a 2022 poll of 5,444 people by Ipsos Mori and the charity Business in the Community (BITC), three out of five women say their caring responsibilities for children and other vulnerable or elderly relatives are preventing them from applying for a new job or promotion, while only one in five men say the same. 

It’s time for employers to recognise this in their existing employees, and to reach out with support and help wherever possible. Flexible working and support programmes may be the bridges that enable a woman to feel supported enough in her workplace to apply for that promotion. 

Make workplace adjustments and normalise conversations around menopause 

We need to continue to increase awareness of how different life stages can impact women’s confidence in progressing in their careers, and this also includes the menopause. 

In 2022, the Menopause and the Workplace report by the Fawcett Society and Channel 4, polled 4,000 women aged 45-55 and found that 10% (the equivalent to 333,000 women across the UK) had left their job because of symptoms of the menopause. If we want to encourage women to rise through the ranks to senior leadership roles, we have to support their physical and emotional challenges as they get there, especially if we want to retain women in senior roles. 

To champion equity, we need to promote a supportive and open culture around menopausein the workplace, understanding how, as leaders, we can do more to support those stages. A menopause policy at work can also be useful to outline your organisation’s approach to employees experiencing menopausal symptoms and the various forms of support available to them. 

Create an equality-based culture of learning

Organisations will want to foster a culture of inclusion to empower underrepresented talent and create an environment for the diversity of thought that will benefit productivity and bottom-line performance. Technology can be a great enabler, particularly technologies that can automate repetitive tasks to help employees focus on more interesting, value-added work. However, unequal access to data and new technology can create a foundation of inequality. Businesses should consider whether they are allocating equal training opportunities when it comes to new technologies, or if these are concentrated in one department, or amongst a small group of individuals.  

We hope that outlining these practices has been helpful to you and your organisation, and from my team to yours, Happy International Women’s Day! 

Elaine Roche
Elaine Roche

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