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It’s time for businesses to act to close the gender pay gap

It will take more than 100 years for the gender pay gap to close according to The World Economic Forum

Think about what this means…. During our working lives, we’ll never see gender equality. During our children’s working lives, they won’t see equality. If this prediction is true, we won’t see equal pay until our grandchildren are grown up.

To me, this isn’t acceptable.

Yes, the appetite for change is growing. But it’s not happening fast enough. Businesses need to embrace equality – and it needs to be the C-suite who leads the charge.

So, I want to explore some tactics for achieving gender equality in our sector, ending the industry’s gender pay gap, and ultimately how to make your workplace a more welcoming, inclusive environment for women.

Redefine how you recruit

Employee equality means looking at the entire working life cycle and that has to start with recruitment.

The people you employ today will be leading your business tomorrow. So it’s vital you bring on board a wide spread of backgrounds and experiences. Unconscious bias training can really help here, but so can setting targets for candidate pools to ensure hiring managers interview an even mix of candidates.

Also, don’t forget the small wins. Writing inclusive job descriptions, looking for talent in new areas, setting targets for your recruitment partners, creating programmes to support returners to the workplace – all of these can be highly effective.

Develop, develop, develop

For many businesses, a key reason behind the gender pay gap is the lack of women in senior jobs.

In much of the tech sector, this translates into sales, technical, and leadership roles: high-paying positions that anyone – male or female – requires significant development to hold. You should therefore make it a priority to ensure female employees are job-ready for when promotion opportunities come.

This can be as simple as setting up skills and/or development programmes aimed at women in your business. But another great option is to start an internal Women’s Business Network. In my experience, creating this kind of space is invaluable in supporting women to inspire each other, give advice, and collectively push gender issues to the top of the corporate agenda.

Retaining talent

Your gender pay gap will never close if you are unable to retain the women you hire.

This has to start with understanding why staff are leaving your company. If you aren’t doing so already, set up a process of confidential feedback so those who part ways can give their honest reasons as to why they’re moving on. And understand what this feedback is telling you and what needs to change to improve retention of female colleagues.

Furthermore, take a closer look at your flexible working policies. No one wants to choose between a career and a family life. Whether it be managing pregnancy or picking the kids up from school, ensure both female and male employees can balance work and home commitments.

Make it normal for male colleagues to work flexibly and also take parental leave. Taking a proactive approach towards flexible working can help all employees balance their work and life responsibilities, whatever their personal commitments.

A data-driven approach

Underscoring all of this is the need for a data-driven approach.

You can only improve what you can measure. So set up a system of KPIs and get a real understanding of what your bottlenecks are. Use these to command leadership attention and set your focus areas. Once you’ve identified areas of improvement, agree targets, and identify who’ll be accountable for meeting them.

Finally, be bold and be ambitious. Change won’t happen overnight, but it needs to happen as quickly as possible. So set your targets. Engage your workforce. Engage your leadership, make them accountable. And make sure you foster a culture of equality.

Kelly Metcalf is head of diversity & inclusion and wellbeing at Fujitsu