IWD 2017: Inclusion for Women in the Workplace

Equal Approach

Earlier this week I held a webinar to recognise and celebrate International Women’s Day, which is celebrated annually on 8th March, looking at Inclusion for Women in the Workplace. With 80 individuals registering for the event, it is clear that this topic is clearly high on people’s agenda, so I wanted to share some of the key learning from the webinar in a blog, podcast and infographic to support more organisations to embed inclusion for women in the workplace.


Podcast – Click here to download the podcast.

A transcript for the podcast is available, please email marketing@equalapproach.com


Infographic – Click here to download the infographic

International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day is a global day which celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. Each year there is a theme for International Women’s Day, and this year’s theme is Be Bold For Change.


IWD Brief History

International Women’s Day (IWD) has been observed since in the early 1900’s:

  • 1908 – 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights.
  • 1909 – On 28th February the first National Woman’s Day (NWD) was observed across the United States.
  • 1910 – The idea of an annual International Women’s Day was agreed at an International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen.
  • 1911 –  International Women’s Day was honoured the first time



Unconscious Bias

I think it’s important that when we are discussing inclusion for women in the workplace, that we touch albeit briefly on unconscious bias. We ALL have unconscious biases, but we are often totally unaware of them, but nevertheless act upon them in all aspects of life.

  • 57% of women surveyed by Badenoch and Clark felt that unconscious bias is the greatest barrier facing women in the workplace.

We each have the power to overcome biases by first identifying them and then learning how to manage them. Equal Approach has developed an unconscious bias infographic, which includes our 7 Tools and Techniques to Overcome Unconscious Bias.

Click here to download our Unconscious Bias Infographic

The 4 Key Bias Hotspots

There are 4 key bias hotspots affecting women in the workplace:

  1. Recruitment and Selection

Unconscious bias can have a big impact on the Recruitment and Selection of female talent.

A study published in the Harvard Business Review examined the relationship between the shortlist of candidates for interview and the final hiring decision based on male and female representation. The study found that if there’s only one woman on the shortlist of 4, there’s statistically no chance she’ll be hired. When there is 2 or 3 women on the shortlist of 4, they had a proportionate chance of being hiring (50% and 67%).

This result was attributed to unconscious bias, when there was only one woman on the shortlist, it highlighted that she was different from the “norm”, and deviating from the “norm” can be risky for decision makers, so is often avoided.


  1. Development and Retention

Managers are much more likely to allocate stretching pieces of work to individuals they have some sort of connection with (In Groups). Therefore with males accounting for the majority of management positions, this suggests that male managers may be less likely to give female employees stretching pieces of work, which can impact on their development and ultimately retention.


  1. Feedback

Individuals are much more likely to give direct feedback to those who are similar to them (In Groups), and individuals are anxious to give direct feedback to those who are different from them (Out Groups). Again with males accounting for the majority of management positions, this suggests that male managers may be less likely to give female employees direct feedback.

This concept is supported by numerous research studies, including a 2016 report by McKinsey covering 132 companies found that women received less access to, and feedback from their managers, regardless of the managers’ gender.


  1. Informal Mentoring and Support

Continuing on the theme of in and out groups, individuals are more likely to provide informal mentoring and support to people who they are similar to (In Groups). This can take many forms, but could include:

  • Spending extra time when providing feedback and advice.
  • Recommending individuals to internal stakeholders.




When it comes to attracting female talent, organisations can take a number of steps to improve the likelihood of females applying, here are 3 of our top tips:

  1. Be Flexible

Offer roles at all levels as flexible, part-time or a job share unless there is a strong business case not to. Flexible working isn’t just a ‘women’s issue‘, and it can enhance the inclusivity of your organisation.


  1. Review qualifications and key duties, and ensure that only essential criteria are included.

Statistics from Hewlett Packard found that men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the criteria, but many women only apply if they meet 100% of them.


  1. Remove masculine words and gender coding from job adverts

Removing masculine wording from job adverts is a quick and easy step to attracting more female applications.

In gender coding, we unconsciously assign traits to males and females, by categorising words as either masculine or feminine based on the biases that we have developed and inherited. Masculine wording can be a key influencer in females’ perception of their suitability for the role.

Research found that despite gender coded words only composing a small fraction of the total words in the job advertisement, women found masculine worded job descriptions less appealing, compared with the same types of jobs which used feminine wording.



The Gender Pay Gap

The gender pay gap is a measure of the difference between men’s and women’s average earnings across an organisation or the labour market, and is expressed as a percentage of men’s earnings. In April 2016 the Office for National Statistics reported that the gender pay gap for full-time employees narrowed to a record low of 9.4 per cent, down from 9.6 per cent in 2015.

It is important to note that Equal Pay is separate to the Gender Pay Gap. Whilst both equal pay and the gender gap deal with the disparity of pay women receive in the workplace, they are two different issues. Equal Pay means that men and women in the same employment performing equal work must receive equal pay, as set out in the Equality Act 2010.

Despite the Equal Pay Act 47 years ago, women still earn less than men in Britain today. The difference in pay between men and women remains the clearest and most dramatic example of inequality for women.

The current gender pay gap means that women effectively stop earning relative to men in November. This day is referred to as Equal Pay Day and varies according to the actual pay gap each year. In 2016 it fell on the 10th of November, which was only one day later than the previous year. The World Economic Forum last year reported that the gender pay gap would take until 2186 – 170 years – to close.

Overall, women can expect to earn around £300,000 less than men over their entire careers as a result of differences in caring responsibilities, clustering in low skilled and low paid work, the qualifications and skills women acquire, and outright discrimination.


Gender Pay Gap Reporting

The Equality Act 2010 (Gender Pay Gap Information) Regulations 2017 will come into force on 6 April 2017 from which point large private and voluntary sector employers with 250 or more employees will have up to 12 months to publish this information

  • Public sector regulations are subject to the approval of Parliament but are expected to follow the same timescale.

These results must be published publically on the employer’s website and a government site.


Achieving Pay Parity

There are a number of ways you can take steps to achieving pay parity:

  • As previously mentioned… Be Flexible – Offer roles at all levels as flexible, part-time or a job share unless there is a strong business case not to.
  • Provide Support – Support women to progress to more senior and higher paid jobs through coaching and mentoring programmes
  • Tackle Unconscious Bias – Address unconscious bias in the 4 hotspot areas:
  1. Recruitment and Selection
  2. Development and Retention
  3. Feedback
  4. Informal Mentoring and Support
  • Identify Underrepresentation – Measure the representation of women at different levels throughout the organisation, and measure progression
  • Conduct an Equal Pay Audit – Despite women being entitled to equal pay with men for doing equal work under the Equality Act 2010, there can still be discrepancies in pay due to negotiations. Contrary to the belief that women don’t ask for pay rises, a global study found that women in their 20s and 30s ask for pay increases as often as men, but are less likely to receive a pay rise after asking, with a lack of assertiveness in negotiations is often cited as a potential reason.



Women in Leadership

Thirty years have now passed since Gay Bryant, then the editor of Working Woman magazine first coined the term “glass ceiling” as she described the invisible and artificial barriers that had kept women from promotion to upper management and other higher leadership positions in the business world.

The Chartered Management Institute recently highlighted that women in the UK comprise:

  • 60% junior managers
  • 40% middle managers
  • just 20% at senior levels
  • and less than 10% of CEOs

They also found that Male managers are 40% more likely to be promoted that women


3 Key Reasons for the Lack of Women in Leadership

  1. Discrimination
  • 57% of women surveyed by Badenoch and Clark felt that unconscious bias is the greatest barrier facing women in the workplace.
  • Research reveals that one in three working women in the UK admits to feeling disadvantaged in the workplace, with 31% of respondents believe that men are offered greater opportunities at work.
  • Uneven expectations are also cited more than any other factor as a major reason that more women are not in top leadership roles in business.
    • 52% of women cited that women are held to higher standard than men as the key reason why
    • In comparison only 26% cited family responsibilities as the key reason

Solution – Embed a culture of inclusion where female talent is championed.


  1. Talent Pipeline
  • Over 80% of companies have a shortage of female senior managers.
  • 26% of females cited a lack of female role models as a factor holding back aspiring female managers.

Solution – Invest in coaching, sponsorship and mentoring programs to develop future leaders.


  1. Work-life Balance
  • Balancing work and family responsibilities is one of the most challenging obstacles for women seeking leadership positions.
  • Recent research by the Equality and Human Rights Commission found 77% of mothers reported a negative or possibly discriminatory experience at work during their pregnancy, maternity leave or on their return to work.

Solution – Allow all staff to work flexibly and put in place a returnships programme to entice women back into work. The legislation surrounding the right to request flexible working came in a few year’s ago, and many organisations are benefiting from a more productive team as a result of flexible working.



Intersectionality – Multiple Identities

Women already face gender as a barrier in the workplace, but for many women, intersectionality or multiple identities can often lead to them having to overcome multiple barriers.



A 2013 All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) report found that minority ethnic women face discrimination at every stage of the recruitment process.

  • Unemployment rates of Black, Pakistani and Bangladeshi heritage women have remained consistently higher than those of white women since the early 1980s.
  • Opportunity now found that 69% of Black women have experienced bullying and harassment at work, compared to 52% of women overall.



Disabled women are less likely to be employed than disabled men, with a lower employment rate for disabled women in all EU Member States (44% compared to 51% for males). The pay gap between disabled women and non-disabled women is double that of men at 22%. (NHS)



The European Network Against Racism and British group Faith Matters conducted research to ascertain the experiences of British Muslim women.

  • 43 per cent of Muslim women in the UK feel they are ‘treated differently or encountered discrimination at job interviews’ because they are Muslim. This figure rises among women who wear a hijab.



There are a number of other areas to be considered:

  • Sexual Orientation – A study by Stonewall found that lesbians face a “double-glazed glass ceiling” in the workplace.
  • Age – Researchers at Anglia Ruskin University found that Women over 50 are up to 25 times less likely to be offered a job interview than their counterparts in their late 20s.
  • Additionally, other identities such as trans, parent/ carer, etc. can all have an impact on how included women are at work.


Multiple Identities

Individuals can experience more than two identity issues, each of may encounter barrier in the workplace e.g. being female, BAME, disabled and bisexual.

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