Gender equality at work

Promoting gender equality in the workplace: Strategies for a fair and inclusive work environment

First published on Thursday, Jun 04, 2020

Last updated on Monday, Oct 30, 2023

In today's rapidly evolving society, the importance of gender equality in the workplace cannot be overstated.

Despite considerable progress, gender inequality continues to persist—as the gender pay gap, and gender stereotypes—show that more women are disproportionately affected by the gender pay gap compared to men.

So, it's essential for you to take proactive measures to address gender inequality issues and champion women’s empowerment in the workplace.

In this article, we'll discuss strategies and best practices to achieve gender equality and how to close gender gaps—including promoting equal pay, creating a gender-balanced workforce, combating gender bias—and ensuring equal rights and opportunities for all employees.

Let's work together to create a workplace where everyone, regardless of gender, can thrive and succeed.

What is gender equality?

Gender equality refers to the equal treatment, rights, and opportunities for individuals regardless of their gender identity. It’s a concept that emphasises the importance of breaking down gender norms, biases, and stereotypes that limit individuals based on their gender.

In the workplace, gender equality means providing equal opportunities for everyone to excel in their careers, receive equal pay for equal work, and have access to equal representation and leadership roles.

It also means creating an environment where employees feel safe and respected, free from harassment and sex discrimination.

By striving for gender equality in the workplace, you are not only supporting your employees but also benefiting from a diverse and inclusive workforce that fosters innovation and success.

Achieving gender equality, however, requires a versatile approach, involving policies, education, and change.

Hands together in circle to signify equality

The importance of promoting gender equality

Promoting gender equality in the workplace is not just a matter of fairness it's also essential for the success and growth of your business. Numerous studies have shown that diverse teams lead to better business outcomes.

When you prioritise gender equality, you are better equipped to attract and retain top talent, foster innovation, and make more informed decisions. Additionally, a workplace that values and promotes gender equality creates a positive company culture that is attractive to both employees and customers.

By actively working towards gender equality, you are contributing to the larger societal goal of creating a more inclusive and equal world.

Which laws affect gender equality in the UK?

Sex is a protected characteristic, which means it’s covered under the Equality Act 2010 and there are specific provisions prohibiting sexual harassment and workplace discrimination including pay.

Other key laws to consider are:

  • Human Rights Act 1998
  • The Employment Rights Act 1996

As we are no longer part of the European Union, we are still subjected to some of their laws on gender equality. And the European Commission's Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025, has key insights into:

  • Ending gender-based violence
  • Challenging gender stereotypes
  • Closing gender gaps in the labour market
  • Achieving equal participation across different sectors of the economy
  • Addressing the gender pay and pension gaps
  • Closing the gender gap

Achieving gender balance in decision-making and politics

The UK government also has policies that set's out their vison for gender equality through their policy paper—Gender equality at every stage: a roadmap for change. The vision, and actions to address gender inequalities are outlined in the publication, along with a case for change and a gender equality monitor.

When working towards gender equality in your business, it’s important to follow these policies and make sure you are always in line with the law.

Strategies and best practises to achieve gender parity

It takes work and commitment but with the right strategies and steps in place, you will be on your way to achieving and promoting gender equality in the workplace.

The following strategies can help in closing gender gaps and assist in achieving gender equality in your business:

Two people meeting with a handshake

Assessing the current workplace environment

The first essential step in achieving gender equality is to assess your current work environment.

To do this you should conduct a thorough analysis to identify any existing barriers or biases—both conscious and unconscious—that may be causing gender inequality. This can be done through employee surveys, focus groups, or anonymous reporting systems.

By gathering this data, you can gain insights into the experiences and perceptions of your employees regarding gender equality issues in the workplace.

Once you have the data you should analyse the results and identify areas where improvements are needed. This could involve addressing any gender pay gaps, reviewing promotion processes to spot biases, or ensuring equal access to training and development opportunities.

Addressing the gender pay gap

One of the most quantifiable manifestations of gender inequality is the persistent gender pay gap. Despite efforts to bridge the gap, studies reveal that women continue to earn less than their male counterparts for performing the same job.

You should actively examine your compensation policies, ensure transparent pay structures, and eliminate any discriminatory practices that contribute to unequal pay.

Offering equal contractual terms and conditions, like annual leave allowance, benefits, and performance-based pay raises are also necessary steps.

a women signing a contract confirming equal pay rises

Addressing unconscious biases and gender stereotypes

Unconscious bias refers to the gender stereotypes and preconceived notions that individuals may hold without even realising it. These biases can affect decision-making processes, performance evaluations, and career advancement opportunities, leading to unfair treatment based on gender.

Examples of gender bias can sound like:

  • “Young women are often portrayed as naïve"
  • “Women tend to be too emotional for senior management roles or leadership roles”
  • “Women tend to spend more time on domestic responsibilities than men”

To address unconscious bias, you can provide training and workshops to raise awareness and help employees recognise and overcome their biases. This can include educating employees about the different forms of bias and the impact they have on individuals and the workplace.

You should also lead by example and challenge unconscious bias when you come across it.

Encouraging gender diversity at all levels

You should actively strive to build diverse teams and leadership roles, ensuring equal representation and inclusivity at all levels.

This can be achieved through targeted recruitment efforts, diversity training programs, and establishing a supportive environment that values and celebrates differences.

Another good approach is through mentoring programs. By matching workers with mentors who can offer guidance, encouragement, and professional advice, barriers can be broken down and new opportunities can be unlocked.

Encouraging open communication and support

When advancing gender equality, you should always encourage open communication and offer support.

It’s important to create a culture where employees feel comfortable speaking up and are encouraged to share their ideas and experiences. By fostering an environment where everyone's voice is heard and valued, you can break down gender-related barriers and biases.

You should actively promote and participate in discussions around gender equality, addressing any concerns or issues that arise. You should also initiate dialogues with employees, seeking their input and feedback on strategies to enhance inclusivity.

Additionally, implementing support systems such as employee resource groups or affinity networks can provide a platform for employees to connect, share experiences, and support one another. You could also give your employees access to an Employment Assistant Programme to help support their mental health.

Training programme on gender equality

Continuous training and education

To maintain progress to achieve gender parity, you should prioritise continuous training and education. It's not enough to provide one-time workshops or meetings—instead, a commitment to ongoing learning is essential.

Training programs should be updated regularly to reflect current research and best practices. These programs can focus on various topics, such as unconscious bias, gender stereotypes, diversity and inclusion, and effective communication strategies.

Additionally, you should encourage employees to seek additional education and resources independently. This could include online courses, webinars, or participation in industry conferences and events. By supporting employees in their pursuit of knowledge, you demonstrate your commitment to their personal and professional growth.

By continuously expanding employees' knowledge and understanding, you can foster an environment where everyone feels valued and respected. This sustained training and education can help challenge individual biases and promote a culture of ongoing learning and development. When you invest in your employees' education and promote a learning mindset, you can make significant strides towards gender equality in the workplace.

Monitoring progress and celebrating successes

It's important for you to establish benchmarks and regularly assess your progress towards achieving a fair and inclusive work environment.

This can be done by conducting regular surveys or gathering feedback from employees to gauge their satisfaction and perception of equality in the workplace. By tracking data and monitoring trends, you can identify areas for improvement and implement necessary changes accordingly.

It's equally important to celebrate successes along the way. Recognising and publicly acknowledging achievements in creating a gender-balanced workplace not only boosts morale but also reinforces your business' commitment to gender equality. This can include highlighting individual contributions, team accomplishments, or business milestones.

By monitoring progress and celebrating successes, you create an environment of accountability and motivation, ensuring that gender equality remains a priority for ongoing improvement.

Implementing gender equality policies

Another crucial step to promote gender equality is to implement policies that are designed to foster a gender balance and to make sure all employees are treated equally.

Your policy should serve as the framework for your business to actively promote and uphold gender equality principles.

Some key elements that should be included in your policy are:

  • Equal pay and pay raises
  • Anti-discrimination measures
  • Flexible working arrangements
  • Parental leave
  • Support for career development opportunities
  • Reproductive health support for those experiencing menopause or the loss of a pregnancy

Remember, creating an inclusive workplace requires dedication and commitment from all levels of your business.

A mum working from home with her child due to work offering flexible working arrangements

How to achieve gender equality with the help of BrightHR

Promoting gender equality in the workplace is not a one-time effort but an ongoing commitment that requires monitoring, assessment, and celebration of successes.

By establishing benchmarks and regularly tracking progress, you can identify areas for improvement and implement necessary changes to create gender diversity and a fair and inclusive work environment.

Additionally, celebrating successes along the way boosts morale and reinforces your business' dedication to gender equality. When individuals and teams are recognised for their contributions to gender balance, it creates a sense of accountability and motivation to continue striving for equality.

People management support that transforms your workplace

Having an all-in-one HR software like BrightHR can help streamline your processes with everything you need to transform your people management and avoid harmful practices within your business.

From access to hundreds of customisable policies, templates, and guides for creating an equal working environment to a 24/7 employment law advice line, BrightHR can help.

And, by continuously monitoring progress and celebrating successes through an employee recognition programme like Praise, you can ensure that gender equality remains a priority for ongoing improvement in the workplace and future generations.

FAQ about gender equality

What is gender inequality?

Gender inequality is the social issue in which individuals are treated differently based on their gender. This disparity can be due to sex discrimination or sexism. The biased treatment may arise from differences based on biology, psychology, or cultural norms prevalent in society.

What is the gender pay gap and why does it exist?

The gender pay gap, also referred to as the gender wage gap is the difference in average earnings between men and women. It exists due to several factors, including occupational segregation, discrimination, and career progression.

What are diversity and inclusion in the workplace, and how do they relate to gender equality?

Diversity in the workplace refers to the presence of various identities and backgrounds among employees and celebrating the, while inclusion involves valuing and respecting those differences. Gender equality is closely related to diversity and inclusion because it entails treating all genders equally and ensuring that everyone feels valued.

What is sexual harassment in the workplace, and how can it be prevented?

Sexual harassment in the workplace is unwelcome behaviour of a sexual nature that creates a hostile or intimidating work environment. It can be prevented by establishing clear policies against harassment, conducting training, and fostering a culture of respect and reporting, adhering to UK employment laws.

What is gender-based violence?

Gender-based violence is a result of deep-seated gender inequality and is a severe infringement of human rights across all communities. It's defined as any form of violence inflicted on an individual due to their gender. While both males and females can be targets of gender-based violence, women and girls are typically at higher risk.

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