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Women in the Workplace: Focus on employee capabilities, not their gender

Giving men and women the same opportunities at work and at home is crucial to achieving a gender-balanced workforce at all levels. More women are in work than ever before but their share of family responsibilities has not diminished – indeed it may have increased in recent years due to welfare cuts.

When women have children, they are more likely to drop out of the workforce and/or take part-time work than men. 37% of mothers with dependent children are working part-time compared to only 6% of fathers. However research by YouGov[i] shows that men want to spend more time with their children and share the childcare responsibility more equally. Moreover partners who manage to share responsibility at work and at home are happier and more successful[ii]. Employers need to take those aspirations into account if they want to attract and retain the best talent.

What is at stake is not only women’s progression but also employees’ wellbeing. Indeed, research shows that partners who manage to share responsibility at work and at home are happier and more successful.

Achieving a truly gender balanced workforce means employers must recruit and progress the best talent – irrespective of gender

The commercial imperative for realising women’s potential in the workplace is clear: gender equality enhances employee engagement, boosts productivity, meets the diverse needs of customers and suppliers, and improves brand reputation.

Despite this, women are still underrepresented in the higher paying, higher status jobs and industries. There are more women on company boards than ever before, but they still only make up 26% of FTSE 100 boards and the percentage of female executive directors in the FTSE 100 sits at just 8.6%. Such inequality is not reserved at the top level of business; the UK’s gender pay gap still stands at 19% in 2015, which is largely driven by the high number of women in lower-paid industries.

Employers must focus on employees’ capability – their skills, knowledge, experience and potential – not their gender. We advise employers to utilise our resources and toolkits in order to understand the key barriers women face at work, to advance women in the talent pipeline and to create inclusive cultures enabling all employees to thrive, irrespective of gender.

  • Offer agile working arrangements to both men and women equally.
  • Promote Shared Parental Leave (SPL)
  • Support carers in the workplace

[i] YouGov, ‘Equal Rights over Child Custody’, YouGov: What the World Thinks <https://yougov.co.uk/news/2012/06/13/equal-rights-over-child-custody/> [accessed 25 November 2015].

[ii] Linda Harradine and Örebro university, ‘Two-Generation Gender Equality Study Shows Career Benefits’ <http://www.oru.se/English/News/Two-generation-gender-equality-study-show… [accessed 25 November 2015].

Business in the Community is a business-led charity committed to shaping a new contract between business and society, and are committed to ensuring that age, gender, race and wellbeing do not limit an employee’s engagement and success in the workplace.

About Dimitra D.

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