It’s International Women’s Day, and time for all of us to become more feminist. We have heard for years that we need to close the gender pay gap and address barriers resulting from gender discrimination, preventing women from reaching their full potential. These words need to be put into action. Feminism in the workplace can mean listening more, being more inclusive, and holding ourselves accountable for creating a fair and supportive environment for workers.
The COVID-19 pandemic laid bare the many inequalities across our economy, in our workplaces and communities. Women have been hit the hardest by these social failings, and, in one year, studies estimate that women globally lost $800 billion in income due to Covid-19[i]. This is due primarily to women being stuck in low-paid and informal jobs or because of unpaid care that typically falls on women’s shoulders (childcare, elderly care, etc.). During the “Great Resignation[ii],” more women have left their jobs compared to men – it would take a staggering 30 months[iii] to gain back the 2 million jobs that women lost or left during the pandemic. Those companies that hear the alarm bells know that it is good for the economy and society when women are working in jobs that they want and ones that work for them in return. Research shows that all of society benefits when women are educated, empowered, and economically engaged
The work of Corporate Citizenship and supports companies to analyse and address those ESG issues that are most material for the business. We believe that gender analysis (above and beyond Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) commitments) should be core to any ESG strategy not only because it adds to a company’s value proposition but because it also signals to the workforce as well as investors and consumers that equity and inclusion are non-negotiables and embedded into corporate culture. The proof? At the start of 2022, “418 companies representing a combined market capitalization of USD16 Trillion and headquartered in 45 countries and regions” were included in the 2022 Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index (GEI)[v]. According to GEI[vi], that’s a 20% increase year-over-year of new companies and the commitment to gender equality is mainstreaming.
What are the 5 immediate steps companies can take to be more feminist in 2022?
1) Create talent recruitment pipelines that are more inclusive
A first step is to become more inclusive and think about how talent with diverse backgrounds and perspectives are attracted and retained. This sets the stage for a company culture that values and celebrates diversity. Just 8% of Fortune 500 companies are led by women, and less than 1% by women of colour (Harvard Business Review, 2021[vii]). This is something that companies can address with some small changes to hiring practices. Think about how you are (or might not be) recruiting women and for what positions and who is doing the recruiting. Do the job descriptions attract the diverse talent that you are looking for? How are you recruiting talent without bias against a gap in their profession or a not having the right education requirements? Experience and expertise don’t always come with the right degree or a seamless professional trajectory. Not only should you think about talent recruitment but how are you creating an environment for retention as well (more on that below).
2) Work to close the gender pay gap
Gender-based compensation disparities often start before an employee is actually hired (HBR, 2021[viii]). If companies want to seriously close the gender pay gap, you need to look at how you’re hiring and if promotion practices are designed to advance or impede this goal. Also, women’s pay has disproportionally been impacted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, subsequently widening the gender pay gap from 2020 to 2021 (14.9% to 15.4 %Since we last wrote about this trend in 2015[x], the gender pay gap has fluctuated and there has been limited progress in eliminating the gap. Now is the right time for companies to demonstrate their commitment to equal pay for equal work and enact appropriate policies to ensure this dip in the gender gap doesn’t evolve into a slippery slope. Already, UK law requires organizations with more than 250 employees to report on their gender pay gaps, which sheds light on businesses to take further action and encourage debate about how to best to define and measure the gender pay gap[xi].
3) Work to close the gender
Company data collection and analysis historically has a singular ‘one size fits all’ approach. However, this approach is seemingly male dominated and more often than not, this equates to a lack of female perspective and representation in product design, which can result in mild discomfort (when things are too big, like mobile phones ) to actual danger (like when medication doesn’t work[xiii]). It is key for business to know the demographics of not only their workforce, but their supply chain and their consumers – this information will help them make better decisions about where there are the highest risks and how to maximize opportunities.
4) Sign on to the UN WEPs and track your progress
Over 6,000 global companies have endorsed the voluntary UN Women’s Empowerment Principles[xiv] and we see more . Among those 6,000, 246 signatories are US companies, 109 from the UK, and 615 from Brazil, to give some context[xv]. So how can a voluntary framework become core to business practices? The WEPs provide a roadmap for companies to improve gender equality performance throughout the business and supply chain and focus on closing the gender pay gap, gender-responsive supply chain practices, and zero tolerance against sexual harassment anywhere in the workplace or supply chain. The WEPs Gender Gap Analysis Tool[xvi] helps companies assess areas of strengths or opportunity for improvement and how this positively influences a company’s broader ESG reporting agenda is an emerging issue. More companies are signing on to have the WEPs serve as one tool among many in their ESG toolkits.
5) Promote an inclusive workplace culture
It is widely perceived that workplace culture is aligned to promote the advancement of men over women, and many studies, including this one at [xvii], affirm that an unequal workplace culture is the main culprit to career advancement for women. To reach an inclusive and equal workplace, companies must begin to adapt and create polices which reflect women’s needs as well as those which challenge the persistent paternalistic workplace culture. In 2017, the Centre for Creative Leadership[xviii] found that women desire 3 key needs for the workplace: Implementing policies such as, flexible work schedules, progressive family leave, on-site lactation rooms, women-only mentoring programmes, free workplace childcare and breast milk delivery programmes (ie. Milk Stork[xix]), provide women with the opportunity to advance in their careers and promote an inclusive workplace environment.
There is an increasing demand for company policy to mitigate the persistent underlining paternalistic environment of the workplace. Not just for women, but for men too. found that accommodations utilized by women were perceived differently than when men chose to use them (ie. Family leave). The study also found that women were held back in their careers because, unlike men, they were encouraged to take accommodations, which derailed their careers. It is imperative that the policy changes enacted by companies are paired with a culture that enables all employees to utilize them and shatter the perpetual stigmatization and subsequent barrier to professional advancement for women. This is even more critical due to the impact COVID-19 has had on women in the workplace.
How we can help:
Here are some key guiding questions businesses can ask themselves right now:
- What issues affect your ability to create a more inclusive business?
- What are the positive and negative impacts that your company has on women across the value chain?
- What key actions should you pursue to build gender diversity across your value chain?
- How can you measure performance?
- What steps should you take to engage your stakeholders?
At Corporate Citizenship and SLR, we support companies[xxi] to identify how they can become more gender inclusive. We advise on: collecting and analysing gender data; creating gender inclusive workplaces; embedding “feminism” into the DE&I conversation; including workforce and communities in social impact assessments; and, supporting with the WEP’s Gender Gap Analysis.
To learn more about our services and how you can shape your ESG agenda to be more inclusive, reach out to us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
[i] COVID-19 cost women globally over $800 billion in lost income in one year. Available at: https://www.oxfam.org/en/press-releases/covid-19-cost-women-globally-over-800-billion-lost-income-one-year
[ii] The Great Resignation: Why People Are Leaving Their Jobs In Growing Numbers. Available at: https://www.npr.org/transcripts/1048332481?t=1646566731412
[iii] How To Reverse The Great (Female) Resignation. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesbusinessdevelopmentcouncil/2022/02/08/how-to-reverse-the-great-female-resignation/?sh=3fcc6f599fe6
[iv] When women are empowered, all of society benefits – Migiro. Available at: https://news.un.org/en/story/2007/11/239982-when-women-are-empowered-all-society-benefits-migiro
[v] Bloomberg’s 2022 Gender-Equality Index Shows Companies Increasingly Committed to Reporting ESG Data. Available at: https://www.bloomberg.com/company/press/bloomberg-2022-gei/
[vi] Bloomberg’s 2022 Gender-Equality Index Shows Companies Increasingly Committed to Reporting ESG Data. Available at: https://www.csrwire.com/press_releases/735451-bloombergs-2022-gender-equality-index-shows-companies-increasingly-committed
[vii] How to Close the Gender Gap. Available at: https://hbr.org/2021/05/how-to-close-the-gender-gap
[viii] How to Close the Gender Gap. Available at: https://hbr.org/2021/05/how-to-close-the-gender-gap
[ix] Office for National Statistics – Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE)
[x] Gender Pay Gap: Decades of Discussion But Still a Long Way to Go. Available at: https://corporate-citizenship.com/2015/11/16/gender-pay-gap-decades-of-discussion-but-still-a-long-way-to-go/
[xi] Debate intensifying over best way to measure gender pay gap. Available at: https://www.spglobal.com/marketintelligence/en/news-insights/latest-news-headlines/51996490
[xii] Gender Dimensions of Product Design. Available at: https://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/egm/gst_2010/Schroeder-EP.13-EGM-ST.pdf
[xiii] Should medicine be gendered? Available at: https://www.sciencefocus.com/the-human-body/should-medicine-be-gendered/
[xvii] Gender bias in workplace culture curbs careers. Available at: https://www.murrayedwards.cam.ac.uk/sites/default/files/files/CWM%20Gender%20Bias%20REPORT%20FINAL%2020190211.pdf
[xviii] What Women Want— And Why You Want Women—In the Workplace. Available at: https://cclinnovation.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/whatwomenwant.final_.pdf?webSyncID=7b6d71d3-4c7d-0219-0c8a-e082d577924b&sessionGUID=90110e59-1b9d-a168-034b-61b667a1b1d7