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Pre-Existing Gender Inequality in Business Has Been Exacerbated By The Pandemic – New Paper Exposes The Root Causes

A detailed report has exposed why women in the workplace across Britain and Europe have been so severely impacted by COVID-19.

Three Barriers to Women’s Progression: What organisations can do, 2nd edition”, is the most comprehensive paper of its kind, drawing upon 70 studies, to identify the underlying causes of gender inequality in business. 

The paper was produced by Sharon Peake, founder and CEO at Shape Talent, who led a number of experts in conducting detailed analysis of authoritative literature and research on gender diversity over several years.

From the analysis, Shape Talent has identified the three underlying barriers preventing women from being represented equally at senior leadership levels – societal, organisational, and personal. 

Sharon Peake, founder and CEO at Shape Talent, said: “The fact is: pre-existing gender inequalities have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and many of the hard-earned gains in women’s equality in the workplace, particularly at leadership levels, have been eroded. Women, the world over, are exhausted by the impact of gender bias.”

The World Economic Forum has predicted the global gender pay gap is not expected to close for another 136 years, as a direct impact of the pandemic. This is an increase of 36 years on the previous Global Gender Gap Report, which predicted 99.5 years.

Peake explained: “Since time began, gender equality has been viewed as a women’s issue and the focus has been on how to ‘fix’ women. This report does not exist to tell us how unacceptable this is – it is here to provide business leaders with the insight that can focus their strategies on sustainable change and ultimately accelerate gender equality.  

The paper outlines the three barriers in detail, but can be summarised as follows:

· Societal Barriers: Subtle and often unspoken cultural cues and messages that reinforce the ways that men and women ‘ought’ to think, behave and feel. 

· Organisational Barriers: The hurdles experienced in the workplace and a combination of systemic obstacles, cultures and norms which disadvantage women. 

· Personal Barriers: A diverse range of hindrances, including how women present in the workplace and how they manage the work-family interface

Peake further explained: “Let’s be frank: if businesses are to solve the issue of gender imbalance, then they must first understand the root causes. This evidence-based paper is the missing piece of the puzzle for many businesses. Our eight guiding principles will provide the step change needed for a more unified and engaged workforce and will help those who are pushing to move the needle and close the gender gap.”

The paper lists eight guiding principles companies can take to counteract the barriers; these are:

  1. Link inclusion and diversity to business strategy
  2. Set the tone from the top
  3. Make inclusion part of cultural change programme
  4. Take an evidence-based approach
  5. Engage men 
  6. Build and accelerate the pipeline
  7. Enable a level playing field
  8. Narrow the focus

The first edition of Three Barriers to Women’s Progression: What Organisations Can Do, was published in October 2019.

Methodology: Three Barriers to Women’s Progression: What organisations can do, 2nd edition is the product of a detailed analysis of 70 studies reporting the latest leading research. Dr Priscila Pereira Law and Dr Rebecca Jones worked with Sharon Peake to expand the literature review and help bring the paper up to date with new research findings, which also included data from the Covid-19 pandemic and a subsequent review of the barriers too.

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