The Fairer Sex: How to Promote Gender Equality in the Workplace

23rd March 2015

International Women’s Day was a celebration of how far women have come in terms of equality in modern society. Although the female gender have moved forward leaps and bounds since the days of the Suffragettes, research still reveals a huge gap in pay between men and women. In spite of 45 years of campaigning for fairness, both men and women in business are calling for not just equal pay but also equal opportunities in industries that have long been judged as ‘men only’.

Changing Industry Opinion
One of the largest problems for women in the workplace is what industry they will find the most opportunities in. Unfortunately, there are several industries in which women still receive different treatment and appear to be capped in terms of how far they can rise in the ranks. The most prevalent of these industries are construction, technology and engineering.

A study conducted by the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) stated that three quarters of the 1,500 questioned thought that a belief in the industy’s sexist culture was the main contributing factor to the lack of women involved. The lack of representation of women as strong leaders within the industry makes it difficult for women to think they will receive fair treatment in terms of pay and career progression, as well as the day to day behaviour of their male counterparts. While this opinion may not necessarily be totally true, the fact that there is an extreme lack of women in head construction roles could indeed make females think this way.

There have also been major issues within the computer and technology industries that have seen women as the subject of unfair comments and internet ‘trolling’ such as the Gamergate scandal. This saw several women in the industry being faced with misogynistic threats and sparked a massive debate about how seriously female I.T workers are taken in their workplace.

Opinions of Gender Equality
Rather unsurprisingly, it is mainly women who perceive the gender pay and career gap as a big problem, with just 18% of men believing that women and men are not paid equally for doing the same job. Recruiting experts Hays, who specify in women’s advancements at work, questioned 6000 people about whether they believed there was fairness in all respects for women at work. In the UK, 57% of women agree that there is a definite gap whereas just 17% of men believe the same thing.

This is particularly suggested by the rules of the Equal Pay Act, which has not been seriously revisited since its conception in 1970. Currently, if a woman believes she is not being paid fairly for the work she does, she must find a man at either her company or another that is being paid more for the same job. Only then can she make a formal complaint and have her issue addressed. This is seen by many as a denial of collective responsibility, rather forcing the women in question to sort out their own problems and develop a case for themselves.

Having said that, the issue may be forced into the light even more, with a change to the Small Business Bill which could see companies of more than 250 employees publicly declare the difference between average pay for men and women. This new transparency could make large companies approach the gender pay gap more quickly as they fear reprisal and bad publicity should their customers and staff see that they do not pay men and women equally.

Having said that, being forced into changing the rules for fear of receiving bad press is not the most ethical way of changing the current state of play, and hopefully there will be a more willing change in the future.

"the Small Business Bill... could see companies of more than 250 employees publicly declare the difference between average pay for men and women."