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Closing gender gap could add £150 billion to UK economy

The Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) has launched a guide for employers to driving gender diversity

Closing the gender gap could add £150 billion to the UK economy, according to the REC.

The REC’s report Increasing opportunity, supporting growth: the role of good recruitment in gender diversity, stated that recruiters are in a position to increase gender equality at work.

Men continue to dominate the highest paid roles and work in the highest paid sectors, it noted. Out of 10,000 large employers, 1,377 have a pay gap of more than 30%. But the report showed a shift in attitudes since gender pay reporting, with 35% of private sector employers considering reducing their gender pay gap as a high priority, in comparison to 2017, when just 24% of organisations saw this as a high priority.

As the UK grapples with an ongoing skills crisis, the REC report stated that action on the gender gap could contribute £150 billion in GDP by 2025. But this would require the country as a whole to recruit 840,000 additional female employees, enable women to do an extra 30 minutes of work per day, and to hire more women into the most productive sectors, it said.

The REC’s recommendations include ensuring that job adverts are written using neutral language, clearly defining salaries, offering flexible working arrangements, and calling out bad practice.

Sophie Wingfield, head of policy at the REC, told HR magazine that she hopes the report will nudge businesses to update their hiring practices. “We know that the business case has been won for gender diversity but we’re still a long way off, and we felt that now was the time to offer employers practical guidance on what they can do to reinvigorate those processes,” she said.

“People should now start working to improve the way they hire, and sometimes it’s just small steps that can make a difference. We’ve found that a lot of organisations are still recruiting in the same way. It’s important to really analyse every step of the recruitment process – from advertising the role to looking at policies on flexible working.”

A recent report by the Hampton Alexander Review found that progress in increasing the number of women on boards has been slow, with almost one in four FTSE 350 firms appointing just one woman to their boards. It did note, however, that FTSE 100 companies are on track to meet the 2020 target, with 9% of FTSE 100 board positions now held by women, up from 12.5% in 2011.

“One of the really encouraging things to come out of the Hampton Alexander Review was that it recognised that recruiters had been really active in helping to improve gender representation; as an industry they really can make a difference," Wingfield commented.