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In today’s rapidly evolving society, the conversation around gender equality in the workplace cannot be overlooked or overstated. 

While there has undoubtedly been considerable progress compared to previous generations, we are still far from having established gender parity in the workplace, and the issue of inequality persists. 

Subsequently, the conversation around gender inequality must remain ongoing and proactive measures must be taken to address gender inequality concerns and champion women's empowerment at work.

Change can only be achieved through unity, where everyone, regardless of gender, understands the impropriety of gender bias and diligently work towards combating it, to ensure equal rights and opportunities for all. 

Most importantly, employers must take steps to promote and set an example of what gender equality in the workplace should look like. 

What is Gender Equality?

 Defining the true meaning of gender equality is the first step towards promoting and achieving it. 

Gender equality refers to the equal treatment, rights and opportunities for all individuals, no matter what their gender identity is. It’s a notion that challenges gender disparity and places emphasis on the importance of breaking down gender bias, stereotypes and norms that confine individuals based on their gender. 

In the workplace, gender equality denotes employees of all genders having access to the same rewards, opportunities and resources to excel in their careers. Factors include: 

  • Equal pay and benefits for comparable roles with similar responsibilities, 
  • Equal opportunities for promotion, career progression and development,
  • Equal consideration of employee needs and concerns, and
  • Access to equal representation and leadership roles

Gender equality also means fostering an environment free from harassment and gender discrimination, where employees feel safe, comfortable and respected. 

By supporting gender equality, employers can drive innovation, benefiting from a diverse and inclusive workforce. However, for its appropriate implementation and achievement, versatile approaches must be employed, where policies and education are involved. 

The Benefits of Promoting Gender Equality 

Achieving gender equality in the workplace goes beyond the individual and can have positive effects on the organisation as a whole. It is expected that companies that actively work towards reducing gender parity can reap a wide variety of benefits, which include: 

1) A wider talent pool

Given that women make up around half the  world’s population, employees opting not to hire or failing to actively encourage women to join their organisations are essentially disregarding the talents and abilities of half the world. The bottom line is that leveraging this demographic can significantly enhance an organisation’s productivity and ability to effectively achieve goals and objectives.

2) Increased profitability

Studies have continuously supported the theory that inclusive company culture, which promotes gender equality, can anticipate greater profitability. According to the International Labour Organisation, inclusive businesses and policies have a 63% chance of achieving increased profitability. 

This was further supported by McKinsey, indicating that companies with gender diversity on executive teams were 25% more likely to have above-average profitability compared to other companies.

3) Enhanced staff retention

Inclusive workplace culture has the potential to boost morale and employee loyalty, with organisations that support gender equality having lower employee turnover rates. This is further supported by the International Labour Organisation, which reported that inclusive business cultures are 60% more likely to attract and retain talent.

4) Improved reputation

Through the intentional promotion of gender equality in the workplace, organisations can foster excellent company and brand reputation. This often means that individuals who share similar values are more likely to apply for employment with these companies, helping create a positive and productive workforce. 

In fact, a study by job website Glassdoor reported that 76% of job seekers and employees consider a diverse workforce as an important factor when evaluating job offers, while 32% stated they would not apply for a job at a company where there is an evident lack of diversity amongst its workforce. 

Components of Workplace Gender Inequality 

Gender inequality, although it is more prevalent within the female workforce, remains an issue that employees of different genders have to deal with. 

However, to directly address and resolve this concern effectively, HR teams must be in a position to identify the components that feed into gender inequality. These components most often include: 

  • Pay: Being perhaps the most well known component of inequality in the workplace, the gender pay gap is characterised by one gender receiving a lower salary to do the same job as the other gender. It is acknowledged that female employees get paid less than male employees for the same position, have similar work experience and educational backgrounds.
    Data suggests that for every US dollar a man earns, a woman in the same position earns roughly 84 cents, while the UK Office for National Statistics reported a gender pay gap of 14.3% amongst all employees in 2023. 

  • Leadership: When it comes to leadership and C-suite roles, female employees are often looked over for promotional opportunities due to gender discrimination and bias. Although gender does not affect whether an individual is qualified for leadership roles, it remains an area in the workplace where gender inequality is evident.
    So much so that the 2023 Global Gender Gap Report published by the World Economic Forum identified that only 32.2% of senior leadership (Vice-President, Director or C-suite) are female employees. 

  • Hiring: Supported by studies, it appears that hiring rates between female and male employees also display inequality, even though work experience and education backgrounds may be quite similar.
    According to the House of Commons ‘Women and the UK Economy’ 2024 Research Briefing, it was identified that the employment rate in the UK for female employees, between October and December of 2023 was 72.1%. During the same months, the employment rate for male employees was 78.1%, displaying a distinct gap between the two. 

  • Inclusion: Gender inequality can also constitute something as simple as a lack of inclusion. Excluding individuals from projects, company socials, meetings and important decision-making scenarios due to their gender is an evident example of gender discrimination. This could ultimately affect individuals’ performance and sense of belonging, preventing them from being successful, positive and productive workers. 

Best Practices to Achieve Gender Parity in the Workplace

To effectively implement and promote gender equality, HR departments must initially assess and evaluate the current work environment for their organisation. 

A thorough analysis should thus be conducted in an effort to identify any potential biases or barriers - conscious or unconscious - that could exist within the business environment. This could be achieved by hosting employee focus groups, conducting employee surveys or through anonymous reporting systems. 

By gathering such data, not only can gaps be identified, but they can also provide an insight into the perceptions, attitudes and experiences different employees have regarding gender equality. 

Gauging these insights will enable HR teams to implement the appropriate practices and techniques to combat gender inequality, whether that be addressing pay gaps, reviewing promotion processes to identify bias, or ensuring equal access to training and promotion. 

Reviewing Equal Pay Policies & Laws

A review of the organisation's pay policies to identify whether or not they match the pay laws set by the government is crucial. This is the most quantifiable indication of gender inequality.

In the UK, equal pay is covered by the Equality Act 2010, which calls for employers to award the same salary to employees regardless of their gender, for performing the same roles. 

Once this has been assessed, making a note of areas for improvement will enable the development of policies that directly address inequality gaps, to be incorporated in the organisation’s code of conduct. Then, offering equal contractual terms and conditions, such as annual leave allowance, benefits and performance-based raises, are amongst the necessary steps that should be taken to achieve gender parity. 

Direct Address of Gender Stereotypes & Unconscious Bias

Oftentimes, individuals hold certain opinions and preconceived notions without even realising, leading to the reinforcement of gender stereotypes and unconscious bias.

The main difference between the two is that bias refers to a personal preference, like or dislike something, which interferes with an individual’s ability to be impartial, unprejudiced, or objective. On the other hand, stereotypes are preconceived ideas, developed in society through time, which attributes certain characteristics to all members of a specific set, whether that be social glass, gender, nationality, religion and more.

Gender stereotypes and unconscious bias can affect business operations such as decision-making processes, career advancement opportunities and performance evaluations, leading to the unfair treatment of employees based on gender. 

Such biases can include female employees being labelled as “too emotional” for senior leadership roles or requiring more time for “domestic responsibilities” than their male counterparts. 

For this to be addressed, employers should provide relevant training and workshops to help raise awareness and bring unconscious bias to the forefront of employees’ consciousness, educating them on different forms of stereotypes and how certain language can hole sexist undertones. 

Encouraging Gender Diversity at Every Level 

Organisations should actively strive to develop diverse teams while ensuring equal representation at all levels, especially leadership roles, as the gender gap appears to be most prevalent here.  

Targeted recruitment efforts (with gender-neutral language in job advertisements), diversity training and fostering an environment that encourages and celebrates diversity are just a few ways to approach this. 

Along with that, mentoring programmes can also prove effective, matching employees with mentors of similar backgrounds and views, who can offer guidance, professional advice, support and encouragement where needed. 

Offer Continuous Learning & Development Opportunities 

To achieve, and maintain, gender parity in the workplace, it is essential to prioritise continuous learning and development, reinforcing the values and principles that underpin gender equality. Hosting one-time training workshops or irregular meetings will simply not suffice for the shift in mentality that needs to happen. 

Training programmes and workshops should be held and updated frequently, reflecting the latest research and best practices. Such programmes can target topics like unconscious bias, gender stereotypes, effective communication strategies, inclusion and diversity. 

However, development shouldn't stop there. Employers must also encourage staff to seek further education independently through online courses, webinars or industry conferences, demonstrating support for the employee pursuit of knowledge and professional growth. 

Through continuous development of employee knowledge and skills, organisations can help create a culture and environment where everyone feels supported, valued and respected.

Why Is Gender Equality in the Workplace Important?

All in all, gender inequality remains a big concern in the world of work, and one that should be addressed by all organisations. Not only will companies reap the benefits in the long run, but adapting to more comprehensive approaches to gender in the workplace will help flip the biases created and promote a more inclusive and accepting society, both at work and in life. 


Help your organisation achieve gender equality by enrolling on a 100% accredited CIPD HR course with Acacia Learning today.