Girls in ICT day. Ada Lovelace Day. International Women’s Day.
What do all of these have in common?
They’re all examples of how much better we are at celebrating the achievements of women and proactively increasing the profiles of girls and women in unrepresented areas, such as STEM.
But all of this positivity and praise around female empowerment has been overshadowed by a very sensitive topic of conversation: the gender pay gap.
The gender pay gap gives a snapshot of the gender balance within an organisation. It measures the difference between the average earnings of all male and female employees, irrespective of their role or seniority.
Take the technology sector as an example. Here, the gender pay gap is currently reported at 25 percent, slightly higher than the national average (18.1 percent).
The figures point to a simple truth – there needs to be a collective effort to encourage more women into the IT industry, where they can enjoy rewarding, creative and flexible careers.
Yet, with the deadline for companies to publish their gender pay report fast-approaching, it's concerning that over 90 percent of companies are yet to release their figures.
Gender pay reporting is an important opportunity for organisations to look at improving their performance on gender equality.
What’s the solution to addressing the gender pay gap?
Whilst it’s of course vital for businesses to adequately address this long-standing (and ongoing) issue, closing the gender pay gap is not as simple as paying women more money.
It’s about fostering an environment in which women feel valued. And the fastest way to making employees feel undervalued is by making decisions on pays, promotions and progression based on something someone cannot change about themselves – such as their gender. Not to mention, a person’s gender – for instance – has no bearing on the quality of your work.
Rewards such as pay and bonuses should be based on performance and performance alone. One person should only be paid more than another if they have clearly demonstrated the qualities that make them actually right for the role.
However, because employees are likely to stay your company longer and be more productive if they feel valued and appreciated, the differences in pay are often part of a wider context: businesses failing to create diverse and inclusive environments.
The business impact of fostering a diverse and inclusive workforce
Creating a collaborative environment which is open to different ideas, perspectives and styles of thinking is crucial for any business.
For instance, when you’ve got an inclusive workplace where people can be themselves without being judged or it having an impact of their profession, employees are more likely to worker harder and be more engaged.
Imagine if someone has a disability. If they don’t feel they can talk openly about it they spend their time and energy trying to cover it up. However, if you foster an environment where a person’s disability, gender, background or sexual orientation doesn’t matter then employees can focus on delivering great work instead.
So how can employers do this effectively?
One major factor prevention a diverse workforce stems from a pipeline problem. The first step is to increase the pipeline of talent by driving recruitment of more diverse candidates at graduate and apprentice level.
But it doesn’t stop there. Networks are vital in ensuring that everyone receives the proper support and advice they need. And it’s the responsibility of the senior team to take the lead by championing all employees within their organisation, and encouraging more senior leaders to act as mentors and role models.
To ensure we’re seeing a more diverse team in those higher paid roles, its clear organisations across all industries need to be support and fostering talent early on and throughout careers, helping a more diverse group to successfully move up the ladder.
It is only by engaging a diverse array of people in business that we can hope to protect the future competitiveness of the UK economy. So when we get diversity and inclusion right, everyone – from individuals and teams to the broader business – benefits.
It’s simple. Inclusivity leads to greater productivity, and diversity leads to better leadership.
So what next?
When coming to reporting a gender pay gap, the whole businesses needs to be accountable, not just HR. In fact, because gender pay gap reporting is a critical step in any plans to attract, retain and develop a diverse talent population, there is an opportunity to improve the performance of the entire business - creating a vibrant, nurturing and exciting place to work.
And so when reporting any pay gap, businesses must be honest.
Employees and customers want to hear how the company feels about any gap and what they're doing about it. For our employees at Fujitsu, it was really important to know about the company’s gender pay gap and the action we were taking on this.
The time has passed for apologising for gender pay gaps, this should be about taking action and closing them.
Sarah Kaiser, Diversity and Inclusion lead for Fujitsu EMEIA