Gender Pay Gap: Challenging Culture for Change

18 May 2020

Jane McDonald, Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Leonardo in the UK, says that assigning the Gender Pay Gap to history will be down to organisations recognising and adopting inclusion as an enabler at the core of driving cultural change.

Since the UK Government introduced regulations in April 2017 for Gender Pay Gap (GPG) reporting (for employers with more than 250 employees), Leonardo has accelerated its strategy for achieving parity between male and female employees, as part of its wider commitment to creating a diverse and inclusive workplace culture. This has seen a drop from 18.48% to 16% in our average pay gap during the two years that Leonardo has been reporting this data. We have also see the company’s gender balance improve to 17% female / 83% male, and we are continuing to work towards achieving our pledge of a 30 (female) / 70 (male) workforce gender split by 2025.

Societal Influences

Before looking at the how organisations overcome the GPG, we must consider how it has come about. Essentially, there are two significant societal influences that are at the root of the inequality in pay – motherhood and the workplace – which are independent, yet intrinsically linked.

For example, to balance childcare needs, many new mothers may need to work part-time, and/or choose to work closer to home, which inevitably reduces these women’s scope of opportunity and may give them less access to high paying jobs and companies. Thirdly, organisations may make assumptions about part-time workers, which result in career progression opportunities being stifled or unavailable for women, compared to their male colleagues.

Collectively, these elements have led to: more men occupying senior roles; an imbalance in part-time roles which prevent men and women sharing caring responsibilities; and assumptions that women choose to work in low-paid roles and sectors.

However, a flexible approach to senior appointments and working patterns could lead to far-reaching benefits for employers and employees alike.

Benefits of Diversity

Research indicates that diverse (covering gender, ethnicity and culture) workplaces are known to be more productive environments! In McKinsey’s Delivering through diversity study (published January 2018), it stated that “We have found that having gender diversity on executive teams, specifically, to be consistently positively correlated with higher profitability across geographies in our data set.”

In addition to the bottom line impact of greater diversity across organisations – not just at senior management level – I firmly believe that it also leads to the following business benefits:

  • Greater innovation thanks to diverse minds being positively and constructively disruptive
  • Better stakeholder insight collaboration
  • Improved quality of decision making
  • Increased loyalty, creating a sense of belonging, value and trust
  • Strong brand awareness and reputation, leading to improved levels of talent attraction

Driving cultural change through inclusion

So, how do we go about adopting a new approach to ending the GPG, underpinned by embracing diversity and inclusion?

In terms of culture change, being inclusive enables understanding difference and the opportunities that difference can bring to an organisation. Within the context of the GPG, companies should be asking themselves whether they accept the challenge of overcoming the default ‘but we’ve always done it this way’ response.

>When it comes to the behaviour and experience of an organisation, inclusion creates a sense of belonging and connection. It is therefore essential to confront prevailing trends and attitudes, and consider whether you are providing a safe and welcoming environment for everyone or just those who fit the mould, such as full-time workers? Are you insensitive to different life experiences and priorities and what they bring? Do you enable or even encourage harmful behaviours by being unwelcoming and/or insensitive to different priorities? What is being done to change this?

Only by delving into each of these fundamental questions, will you really discover whether inclusion is a tick box concept or a reality you are genuinely working towards in your business. If the answer is the latter, then this can only be achieved through open dialogue, collaboration and engaging with your people on an ongoing basis.

A watershed moment?

We know change – and change for good – has been happening, as demonstrated by pay gaps slowly shrinking year-on-year. But there is still plenty to do to fully overcome the GPG – as a result of existing societal and cultural bias and assumptions reflected in workplace culture and how organisations set up roles, continued assumptions about women in the workplace, and the lack of progress for women where they may be working differently as personal priorities change.

However, now could be the time for real impetus. Amid the darkness and turmoil that the Covid-19 pandemic has brought to all our lives, workplace flexibility been brought to life; millions of people in many different sectors and job roles are demonstrating they can be highly effective and productive when working from home. It is therefore crucial that we build upon the momentum achieved so far.

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