With news of the UK’s gender pay gap hitting the headlines, companies across the country are looking closely at how they treat women in the workforce. HR practices are, or should be, coming under scrutiny so that the right changes can be made to ensure that women are treated and paid fairly.
The UK’s Equality Act 2010 provides a legal framework within which businesses must work, but it does not and cannot cover the societal, cultural and psychological factors which influence how women are treated. Indeed, our understanding of these factors is still developing, and so the solutions we need to put in place are constantly evolving. For example, studies have shown that implicit bias training can backfire, making people believe that, because they’ve had training to reduce their unconscious biases, nothing they do going forward could be biased, which then leads to more biased behaviour.
Rather than prioritising an attempt to alter people’s subconscious attitudes, which at best is a long-term challenge, it is easier and more productive to begin by altering business processes and standards, to ‘bake in’ fairness and awareness. Changing behaviours in this way is also more long-lasting — staff come and go, and new staff need training, but good business processes persist regardless of staff turnover.
There are many places where an examination of business practices can yield results, but our recent work on our online jobs fair for women in STEM has revealed that there are a number of relatively simple ways to significantly improve recruitment, retention and promotion of women. From changing the language and imagery used in job ads and marketing, to enacting flexible and fractional working, to restructuring promotion pipelines, small changes add up to big effects.
If you would like help assessing your existing marketing materials and internal HR processes, then you can now engage Ada Lovelace Day founder, Suw Charman-Anderson to work remotely or in person. If you’d like to know more, just drop us a line.