Good news can sometimes feel like a rarity, but recent PwC data shows that the UK has improved its position in an international league table of female participation in the workplace, moving up four places to fourteenth in a ranking of the 27 OECD economies.
It’s a welcome improvement, but there is still some way to go to achieve gender equality in the workplace, and disparity of pay is part of the problem.
Last autumn, PwC published the findings of our own gender pay gap analysis, making us one of five organisations in the UK to do so. I’m pleased that, with proposed legislative change, discussed in the House of Lords yesterday, all large businesses will soon be required to publish their gender pay gap.
Why does this matter? Most organisations probably don’t think they have a problem. After all, many businesses have diversity initiatives and policies in place, and a look at the latest data on female representation in the boardroom shows that progress is being made.
However, we need to renew our efforts to make sure that women are promoted and rewarded fairly and equally throughout their careers. We know from our own research that women of the millennial generation are just as ambitious and, in many cases, even more so than previous generations of women. However, the perception of male bias persists, and 71 per cent believe that opportunities are not equal for all.
We are at a point where, if we are really intent on improving gender balance and creating equal opportunities for everyone in the workplace, we need to address both the symptoms and underlying causes of gender inequality.
One small but vital step companies can make is to be more transparent about the diversity of their workplace, and to hold themselves accountable to make real progress. Conducting pay audits and reporting externally creates a stronger sense of responsibility to drive action internally.
The best way for an organisation to equip itself with the facts is to undertake an annual equal pay review as part of its wider checks and balances, to make sure that opportunities are equal for all, irrespective of gender.
We have found that targets and data can be useful in highlighting where we should be focusing our efforts. We’ve been able to use the results of pay audits to drive action as part of our diversity strategy and efforts to achieve a greater representation of women at senior management levels.
It’s hard to say how long it will take to achieve real gender equality in the workplace, but we know that, by identifying and measuring the problem, there is a much better chance of building and sustaining workplaces where all talented people can grow their careers with equal opportunities.