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The challenges of gender diversity in the modern workplace

Posted on from Robert Walters Australia

Gender equality has always been a high profile topic, but has been increasingly in focus thanks to current events. 2013 was a year for debates surrounding equal opportunity and closing the pay gap.

Employers benefit from equal opportunities

Statistics released in August 2012 by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA, formerly known as EOWA, the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency) show there is barely an occupation, a job, a sector or an age group where women do not earn less than men. It’s difficult to find a statistical example of women and men being paid the same.

Employers are reaping the benefits of providing equal opportunity for women in the workplace. We often hear that gender equality programs lead to increased employee effectiveness, better staff retention, improved morale and increased consumer and market responsiveness.

However, recent research conducted by Robert Walters found most professionals still believe that gender discrimination is a major issue in their workplace. The survey aimed to uncover if professionals believe gender equality is an issue and what bearing it has on their career choices.

The findings may surprise you

Although the general consensus is that progress has been made, 75% of professionals believe gender discrimination still exists in the workplace and 41% believe there aren’t enough women in senior roles in their organisation. A further 55% believe it’s more difficult for women to be successful in the workplace than men. 

The pay packet

When asked how they think remuneration compares between men and women at the same level of professional seniority, 50% believe men and women receive similar pay, and 48% believe women receive less. Only 2% thought women receive higher pay.

Support to the top

When asked what would be most effective in helping women secure senior roles, 43% chose flexible working arrangements, 33% increased mentoring and training, 14% company targets on gender balance, and 10% on-site childcare. 

Male and female professionals

When asked if they think gender discrimination still exists in today’s workplace, 90% of women said yes, while only 58% of men said yes.

Only 55% of women feel there are enough women in senior roles within the organisation they work for. In contrast, 75% of men think women populate enough senior roles.

The majority of men, at 64%, believe it’s more difficult for women to be successful in the workplace than men, with 72% of women answering the same.

When quizzed about remuneration levels between men and women at the same level of professional seniority, 75% of men believe the pay is similar, while 68% of women believe they receive less than their male counterparts.

Gender equality in your recruitment strategy

The majority of professionals, at 71%, would actively seek employment at an organisation that supports gender diversity.

Organisations should want to close the gap and have a more diverse workplace. Ensuring that gender isn’t a hurdle will increase access to talent and make your organisation an employer of choice. 

Some key measures organisations can consider when looking to address gender imbalances can include:

Implementing a gender diversity program

Studies show that a workplace that values diversity and is free of discrimination is more productive and profitable. It leads to greater employee satisfaction, reduced employee turnover and by harnessing unique employee skills and perspectives, increases creativity and innovation.

Having a diverse workplace could also help foster a discrimination-free environment and reduce inappropriate behaviour. Complaints can lead to costly litigation and compensation claims, as well as unwanted staff turnover and damage to an employer’s reputation.

This survey shows that most professionals (at 71%) would actively seek employment at an organisation that supports gender diversity. By implementing a few key measures, you’ll ensure you’re attracting the widest range of talented professionals.

Let your staff and job-seekers know you have a program in place

A reputation for respect and diversity enhances an employer’s business. Just over half the respondents, at 53%, were unsure if their employer had a gender diversity program in place.

If you have one, use it as an attraction strategy and marketing tool by communicating it to existing staff and potential candidates.

Standardise pay for male and female professionals

48% of professionals believe women receive less pay then their male counterparts. Use industry salary benchmarking and salary surveys to standardise pay rates for male and female professionals in your organisation.

Work on closing the gender gap

The reality is 75% of those surveyed believe gender discrimination still exists in the workplace.

Work on closing the gap by considering:

  • How the focus on diversity increases access to talent
  • The impact of diversity on innovation
  • The links between diversity to productivity and profitability
  • Increasing training and mentoring programs

Organisations aim to close the gap and have a more diverse workplace, consistently shown to be more profitable, engaging and productive.

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