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What should HR focus on to #EmbraceEquity this International Women’s Day?

Observing International Women’s Day and the theme of #EmbraceEquity this year, HR magazine asked experts what HR should focus on to advance gender inclusivity and equity in the workplace.

Data, policy and setting clear goals were key themes of the responses — here’s what they recommended.


Dig into the detail

As the saying goes — what gets measured gets managed, and Claire McCartney, senior resourcing and inclusion adviser at the CIPD, reminded HR professionals of the importance of data.

Speaking to HR magazine, she said: “I would encourage HR to collect and review data on gender equality in their organisation, so they understand where they are making progress and any areas they need to be driving further change.”

Once data is collected, McCartney said it’s vital businesses act on it.

She added: “It’s what organisations do with that data that will make the most difference.

“I would urge them to put in place concrete action plans for change, which have senior level support and are championed by employees at all levels in the organisation.” 

Using data, like pay equity audits, and reviewing the promotion process, gives HR the opportunity to thoroughly review policy too, said Joanne Lockwood, CEO and founder of D&I consultancy SEE Change Happen.

Speaking to HR magazine, Lockwood said: "The one thing HR can do to embrace equity in gender at work is to conduct a comprehensive review of the organisation's policies and practices to identify and address any gender-based disparities. 

“This must be the starting point — and without it equity problems can never be resolved for the long term.”

Data tips:

D&I clinic: How can HR encourage disclosure of protected characteristics?

Putting people on the analytics map

How do you make a pay gap action plan?


Upskill and challenge recruitment conventions

There has been a growing trend for organisations dropping traditional degree requirements for job applicants. By doing, employers naturally broaden their talent pools for people of all different backgrounds.

To help women specifically, Jo Matkin, CEO at emerging talent consultancy Grayce told HR magazine: “To ensure an equal playing field, we must ensure that girls and women are supported in accessing the digital education needed to meet employers’ requirements.”

This may also require challenging the recruitment process, she added: "At the same time, employers should create an inherently inclusive environment to attract and retain talent, including female workers.

“Employees thrive and do their best work if they feel empowered and supported in their decisions in the workplace.” 

Inclusion and recruitment:

Building and sustaining a diverse talent pipeline at AstraZeneca

What do inclusive cultures really look like?


Celebrate progress

International Women’s Day highlights many disparities between men and women at work, particularly when it comes to pay.

As reported by The Guardian, research from the University of Kent released today found that the pay gap between mothers and fathers who went on to higher education has widened since the late 1970s in the UK.

Adèle MacKinlay is director of people & organisational development at the University of Manchester and deputy CEO of the Women in Higher Education Network (WHEN).

Though it can be tempting to focus on disparities, MacKinlay reminded of the importance of celebrating progress.

Speaking to HR magazine, she said: “International Women’s Day is one of the highlights of my professional year, and this year’s and our IWD #EmbraceEquity theme is no exception.  Whilst at times, the pace of change in equity of opportunity feels glacial, as a society, we are making progress. 

“To make progress, it’s about each of us, every day, taking a step forward, having a voice to challenge the status quo.”

Potential legislative change in the UK, including expanded protection against harassment, could help drive progress in the years to come too.

Kloe Halls, associate in Linklaters’ employment & incentives team, told HR magazine: “The government is supporting various draft laws which, if passed, could represent the greatest strengthening of workplace rights for women and new families in years.

“New family rights in the pipeline include up to 12 weeks’ leave for parents of babies receiving neonatal care, enhanced redundancy protection, a day-one right to request flexible working, and one week’s unpaid leave for carers (the majority of whom are women).”


In celebration of International Women's Day HR magazine will be posting articles throughout March highlighting ways to challenge barriers to gender equity in the workplace. Read more here.