Well it is pretty much impossible to predict the future, especially in light of international crises, the rise and fall of international firms and disruptive technology. But the theme of the panel I sat on at Neil Stewart Associates’ Global Equality and Diversity Conference and Awards focused on diversity in the workplace. And we were asked about equality and diversity after Cameron, specifically in reference to the gender pay gap.
The Prime Minister wishes to end this enduring imbalance in the working world within a generation. The media is focusing on two main ways this is apparently going to happen: the 30 hours of free childcare soon to be offered by the state, and a transparency of pay. Though you need to dig deeper than this to really understand what is going on.
What’s the problem?
Simply Googling the gender pay gap brings up varying statistics and numbers and causes. You have people denying its very existence and those who say that if there is one, it is isn’t really the fault of society, it is just that women choose low paid jobs.
What do I think? Well I think it isn’t as easy as women just not wanting to have high paid jobs, nor that it is just because women have babies. And I am sorry to say I don’t think that free childcare is the be all and end all. I would like to see the gender pay gap end in a generation, but I think it will take a lot of effort.
The difference between men and women
One of the brilliant things about my job is that I get to learn about what it is like to work in other organisations, what makes them tick, and what will make them trip up. I also get to have a look through survey data. Our benchmark data was an interesting read. 58% of women feel their pay is fair in comparison to 50% of men. 46% of women feel their pay is reasonable considering their duties, versus 41% of men. So women are happy being paid less and working harder for it – which lands in the idea that the pay gap exists just because women don’t negotiate their pay as well as men. But we also see that women are more engaged. So there you go employers, go and hire women, they will be cheaper and more engaged.
But hang on, women are also more likely to be subject to bullying. Though they are less likely to have confidence in any reporting procedure. Men feel more valued, men feel more able to speak up and challenge the way things are done. If men have an idea, their manager is more likely to take it forward.
You can’t be part of the change if you’re not part of the conversation
Change is a topic for nearly every organisation. But the data shows us that the reasons behind changes are most likely to be told to men than women, and also men are much more likely to be able to contribute their views before changes are made which affect them. So women are much more likely to be change subjects rather than change agents.
It’s not all about money
So we start to see that it goes beyond the pay packets. Many voices aren’t being heard, and this is just looking through one lens of equality. It doesn’t take into consideration disability, race, age, sexuality, religion or caring responsibilities, or even gender identity.
Unfortunately the true value of equality and inclusion is not fully realised, and until we realise the value of hearing different voices and allowing alternative perspectives to be truly heard, I don’t think it will be resolved. The speed in which we need to make decisions means we don’t really allow ourselves to think outside of our own experience. The media pushes so many messages on us, that as humans we automatically have to cut out some of the noise if we are to survive, we make snap judgements based on learned behaviours and our unconscious bias. We carry with us the lessons of our youth, what our teachers taught us, our experience of one individual, society or group.
“We have to have the courage to disrupt patterns that already exist” – said an audience member of the panel. And while Cameron may be saying that he wants to end the gender pay gap in a generation, his actions are not necessarily enabling that change towards gender equality. Currently 60% of those earning less than the living wage are women (Fawcett Society), and any changes to working family tax credits are likely to have a greater impact on women than on men. Just this week concerns have been raised on how a 29% cut to the Communities Department budget will impact women’s support services, which save lives.
To really allow us to evolve our society and our businesses, we need to be able to make make decisions when we need to, but we also need to make sure we consider alternatives.
To hear more about this and the many different points put across in the panel session at the GED Conference, please watch the video…