When the UK government commissioned the workplace and gender equality research in order to review whether policies in the workplace were family friendly and in support of the progression of women, it was identified that the main barriers were tensions between working and caring for a family, negativity surrounding and a shortage of quality part-time work, biases around pay and promotions, and a shortage of quality part-time work and difficult workplace cultures.
Unfortunately, these barriers pose various issues for women that can stunt their career progression, whether that’s through pay and promotion biases, difficult workplace cultures or even sexual harassment.
While by no means exhaustive, the below steps detail ways in which employers can begin to break down these barriers and help their female colleagues succeed.
A more formal and transparent system should be implemented around the deciding factors and criteria for awarding a pay increase and promotion. This should be combined with mechanisms to ensure that these have oversight and put in place accountability measures. Many also argue for non-compliance with pay gap reporting to have more severe and well-publicised consequences.
The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) provides steps on how employers can prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. Support should be given to anyone involved in a complaint of this nature. Also, provide training on how to recognise sexual harassment and ways on how to report it, as well as putting in place robust policies and procedures for dealing with it and handling complaints.
Employers could be more flexible and creative with working hours, for example with part-time, flexi-time, compressed work weeks, telecommuting and job sharing. It is also useful to provide personal resources such as training to supervisors and employees on how to support each other through these changes.
Organisations need to implement robust flexible working procedures and guidance, and train managers on how to manage part-time workers from the initial request through to implementation. Furthermore, flexible working should be promoted within corporate culture more widely and more positively at all levels, so it is normalised as a feature of the modern workplace.
Susie Al-Qassab is a partner at law firm Hodge Jones and Allen