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International Women’s Day and why your business must invest in women

Even after International Women’s Day, the call to invest in women remains crucial. Anthony Sutton of Cream HR emphasizes the need for action to address the gender pay gap, support working parents and provide assistance for women facing challenges such as miscarriage, infertility and menopause.

The theme for this year’s UN International Women’s Day (IWD) on 8th March is Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress. This covers a host of topics relating to women including poverty, human rights, and amplifying women’s voices to name a few. One HR company is asking that employers use this as an opportunity to focus on how they can invest in women and make the workplace more inclusive.

Anthony Sutton, founder of Cream HR wants to encourage business owners to take time to understand that just having women in a business doesn’t automatically make them an inclusive employer. To be truly inclusive they need to look at what they can do to invest in the women that they employ.

Gender Pay Gap

One of the first suggestions is for businesses to decrease the gender pay gap. The Office of National Statistics (ONS) reports that there has been a decrease in the gender pay gap from 14.4% in 2022 to 14.3% in 2023 across all roles, full and part-time. Whilst the fact that the gap is decreasing is a positive, Anthony knows change simply isn’t happening fast enough.

He says: “The gender pay gap is something that affects women in most countries and impacts their overall earnings, their pensions, how much they can save, and how they can support themselves and their families. As a company, if you value the women you employ you should be providing equal pay for work of equal value. By decreasing the gap in pay within a company you also give the message that you believe in gender equality in other areas of the workplace.”

 

He also believes that increasing women’s meaningful participation in sectors where they are currently underrepresented including in science, technology, and engineering can help with empowerment.

Working parents

As a consultancy, Cream HR advises businesses to look at other ways they can support women in the workplace. For example, research from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) shows that after the birth of a child, 13% of women leave work, even when they are the higher earner of the couple. Of women who continue to work, there is a significant reduction in working hours (a fall of 26% on average). In contrast, we see little or no reduction in the paid hours of fathers – even where they earn less than their female partners before their child is born.

Anthony continues: “Companies need to address why these women are leaving. Is it because they don’t want to return to work or is it because the business isn’t accommodating to their changing needs? Are they not giving women with children the same chances of promotion or are they fostering an environment that encourages presenteeism with people working out of hours to show their commitment and thus getting promotions and pay rises, something that isn’t healthy and makes it nearly impossible for those with children to stand a chance of achieving. We’ve all heard anecdotal tales of working mothers being overlooked but this does happen, and businesses are losing experienced and talented members of their teams because they are not adaptable to the needs of employees. This is such a shame as businesses should recognise that the people on their payroll are their biggest asset.”

Miscarriage and infertility

Events substantially affecting women such as miscarriage and fertility challenges can cause anxiety, depression, physical health issues and in many cases cause women to consider leaving their place of employment. It is a topic that should be taken seriously by businesses. A staggering 1 in 4 pregnancies end in loss, and yet most businesses still provide little to no support for women, and men, facing this loss.

Menopause

Menopause and perimenopause have been the subject of many discussions in recent years and whilst some dismiss it as “just one of those things that women should accept and just get on with” it is well recognised that the effects of menopause can have a serious impact on a woman’s ability to conduct everyday tasks, including at work. There are an estimated 13 million women in the UK workforce perimenopausal or menopausal at any given time. The effects of this range from discomfort to severely limiting and can affect people physically as well as mentally. An estimated one million women are considering quitting work as a result of a lack of menopause support.

Invest In Women: Accelerate Progress

So, how can employers offer support? Anthony suggests a few things:

Creating an open environment where people feel able to talk openly and in confidence to managers about things that are impacting them both inside and outside of work.

Ensure training, development, and career progression are regularly reviewed and women at all stages of their lives can access this.

Review and introduce policies that support women and enable them to participate fully in work with minor adjustments.

Conduct a company-wide pay review and make changes quickly.

Review recruitment processes and adverts and ensure they are appropriate for men and women to access.

Allow more flexible working patterns (for all) that give people the chance of a better work-life balance.

Have a merit-based workplace that involves supporting and developing employees’ skills. A merit-based workplace can be a good means to making sure that you’re assessing someone’s abilities first and foremost, rather than letting personal biases influence judgements you make about a particular employee.

Conduct bias training with all team members, line managers, and recruitment decision-makers.

Anthony concludes “It’s key to remember that as business owners we shouldn’t just be talking about the importance of women in the workplace one day of the year, we should be living it within our business as when one group of people benefits from change, everybody in the workplace and society as a whole benefits”

 

www.creamhr.com

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