Like David Cameron, I want to look back at the gender pay gap in the same way we look back at women not voting and working – as something archaic, delusional and fundamentally wrong.
Cameron’s announcement that large firms will have to disclose the average salary for both male and female employees will highlight the pay discrepancy women face.
This level of scrutiny will put the pressure on businesses to pay both sexes equally, which in turn will lead to more women applying for senior roles as they know they will no longer be short-changed.
But this is more than just a box-ticking exercise for equality. Enabling more women to reach a senior level has many positive impacts for business as a whole.
Firstly, it will ensure a wider range of female role models for young women. Currently, aspirational female role models in business are few and far between.
Research by The Female Lead this year suggested a stark difference between female role models and their male counterparts. The research found that 92 per cent of the 200 most-followed females across social media were from a narrow selection of celebrity-focused professions, whereas, the top 200 most followed males derived from a far broader professional spectrum.
It is crucial that we demonstrate to young women that success and satisfaction can come from a variety of professions and vocations, not merely from celebrity status. More powerful female role models in this space can transform business into an exciting field for young women to aspire to be part of.
This in turn will result in more women entering the workforce the benefits of which are two-fold for the continued success of the UK’s economy.
Firstly, it will address the ‘skills gap’. A recent CBI report suggests that the ‘skills emergency’ in the UK could ‘starve growth’. Women provide a pool of under-utilised skilled workers and therefore an increase in women entering the workplace can help to alleviate the UK’s ever growing skills deficit.
Equally, more women in the workforce will lead to increased diversity. A diverse workforce is crucial for business success, as it accelerates innovation. It provides companies with a selection of different creative ideas, drawn from people with a range of experiences.
As Eileen Burbidge, one of London’s most successful venture capitalists puts it, “ecosystems benefit from diversity – of people, views, approaches and philosophies”.
UK business can no longer afford to ignore the potential of this brilliant asset. And although Cameron’s announcement today recognises this, more still needs to be done.
The momentum must be maintained, not only to inspire the next generation of female business leaders but also to ensure the survival of the UK’s economy.
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