Does the response to the Women’s Euros show that we have more work to do when it comes to equality?
The quest for equality has come on in leaps and bounds over the years, but something makes me think that perhaps we haven’t advanced quite as far as we might have hoped.
Just over a year ago England flags adorned every street in every corner of the country. Hung from homes, businesses, lampposts, red and white was omni-present during the summer of 2021.
I’m talking, of course about the men’s European Championships.
The hype was unreal and, for once, real optimism and positivity reverberated across the country.
Annual leave requests were at a high, as were sickness absences, showing just how much football fever had us all in its grip. There was even genuine talk in Westminster about introducing an extra Bank Holiday if England beat Italy in the final.
Fast forward 12 months and the Lionesses are tearing apart the competition at the Women’s Euros and have secured themselves a spot in the final against Germany at Wembley on Sunday.
It’s been an incredible contest so far. We’ve seen the very best of women’s football, England’s crushing 8-0 defeat of Norway in the group stage shattered records, and the team has impressed in all their matches.
But where is the fanfare that the team so truly deserves?
I see a smattering of flags around, but nowhere near the extent that we saw last year… and Government officials have already ruled out any possibility of an extra bank holiday should they win the tournament. Zip. Nada. No chance.
As for absence rates, our BrightHR absence management software shows that annual leave requests for this Monday are stagnant, a mere 2% higher than an average Monday and considerably lower than the 109% increase we saw for the Monday after last year’s men’s final.
Sickness absence rates following the Lionesses’ semi-final win over Sweden were actually down 3% in comparison with the previous Monday. This figure pales in comparison with last year’s 41% increase in sickness absence rates following the men’s knock-out match against Germany: the game with the highest impact on sickness rates through the 2021 Euros tournament.
This is likely to be good news for many employers who don’t have to worry about scrambling to keep operations running with a much-reduced team. But perhaps there’s a more important takeaway than that.
What do the figures tell us? Apart from indicating that fans of women’s football are probably more sensible and able to actually function properly after a night of celebration…
It’s clear to me that gender discrimination is still alive and well. And we all need to do our part in kicking it to the curb.
Last year, employers were championing sweepstakes in the office, allowing matches to be streamed during working hours, amending working hours and allowing early finishes to enable staff to catch the games – gestures that many football fans greatly appreciated.
But, as an employer, if you did all that for the men’s tournament then you should really be doing the same for the women’s.
And the message coming from Westminster is loud and clear – I believe our leaders should make more of an effort to be consistent and champion equality and diversity.
It also suggests that we need to do more work on being aware of our conscious bias. If we’re ever to truly progress, we need to challenge stereotypes and empower everyone to succeed, supported by all around them.
I hope that you’ll join me in wishing the England team the very best success this Sunday. Win or lose, the team has performed impeccably and as a nation we should be incredibly proud.
And though I don’t wish to see any foul play on the pitch, I firmly believe we should show misogyny the red card.
Thank you, Lionesses, for a fantastic summer – let’s hope you bring it home!
A leading authority on employment law and HR, Alan is a Chartered Fellow of the CIPD with 18 years’ experience in employee relations, a Chartered Manager and Fellow of the CMI, a certified practitioner and Fellow of the Australian Human Resources Institute, and a member of the Canadian Human Resource Professional Association. He is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a member of the Forbes Human Resources Council.