It’s also been written into UK and European law since the 1970s.
And yet, despite decades of campaigns and ambassadorial work, it seems the glass ceiling still exists. Women account for less than 10% of executives at FTSE 100 companies (The Guardian 2015), and up to 70% of female workers receive minimum wage (Low Pay Commission 2015).
The importance of gender equality
A company that practises gender equality treats men and women the same. It’s a simple statement, but has many implications that might risk being overlooked because of entrenched company culture or personal attitudes.
Broadly speaking, both genders should be entitled to:
- Equal pay and benefits for comparable roles
- Equal consideration of needs
- Equal opportunities for progression and promotion
Employees should not face any sort of discrimination because they are male or female, or are undergoing gender reassignment.
Which laws affect gender equality?
Gender is a protected characteristic, which means it’s covered under the Equality Act 2010 (section 13).
Because we’re part of the EU, British workplaces are also subject to Article 141(1) of the Treaty of the European Community which states that "Each Member State shall ensure that the principle of equal pay for male and female workers for equal work or work of equal value is applied."
Promoting gender equality at work
Gender inequality in the workplace might include hiring or training only one gender for a particular role (perhaps because it’s seen as ‘men’s work’ or ‘women’s work’).
Female employees might also be concerned about treatment during pregnancy or motherhood, or being sexually harassed.
To help foster gender equality, you could:
- Give training to raise awareness and promote fair behaviours
- Provide childcare facilities, family-friendly policies and childcare vouchers
- Shine a spotlight on successful women in your company, both internally and through media channels — and ask senior women to act as mentors
- Establish policies for fair pay and work/life balance, and ensure managers fully support them
Equal gender pay
The fight for equal pay has been a prominent gender equality issue for decades. Today, research appears to show that the gap between men’s and women’s pay is smaller than ever (ACAS 2015). This is especially true for the under-40s, who now receive equal pay regardless of gender (ONS 2015).
As an employer, you must ensure that men and women receive equal pay for work that is equivalent in terms of skill, effort or level of responsibility.
Your employees can lawfully request a discussion or comparison to establish whether they are being paid fairly under the Equality Act 2010. This includes clear information about pay structure, how bonuses and overtime are calculated, and access to pensions.
If your employee believes their pay is unfair, they can raise the matter with an employment tribunal — though it’s often quicker and less expensive to resolve the problem internally.