Companies must step up to achieve gender equality - Zoe Haydn Jones

Gender inequality in the workplace is a pressing issue that demands immediate attention, as it perpetuates injustice towards women and impedes progress toward equality.

Despite some incremental improvements in recent times, the journey towards gender equality in the workplace remains long and arduous.

Women continue to encounter obstacles that impede their career growth, limit their opportunities, and negatively affect their well-being.

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Some women are subject to unconscious bias, gender bias, and assumptions about their abilities and suitability for certain roles.

Zoë Haydn Jones, director of Jobs for WomenZoë Haydn Jones, director of Jobs for Women
Zoë Haydn Jones, director of Jobs for Women

According to the Jobs for Women's 2023 Women at Work survey, 64 per cent of women experienced unconscious bias and microaggressions, 47 per cent were mistaken for a junior role, and 75.6 per cent had their authority questioned.

Our survey findings showed microaggressions involving gender and race, for example, sexual harassment, gender stereotype language ("emotional", "sensitive," "lady boss,” "princess,”, "time of the month"), racist and misogynistic comments. Some women noted worsening of such behaviours after childbirth.

We also can’t talk about gender inequality without talking about money. Did you know women technically work for free from November 20 until December 31? November 20 is now recognised as Equal Pay Day to highlight the discrepancies in pay between men and women.

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The UK's median gender pay gap has stagnated at 9.4 per cent for five years, with four in five companies paying men more.

The pandemic worsened the gap; many women left their jobs, reduced hours, and took unpaid leave bearing the brunt of childcare responsibilities.

Women are also leaving the workforce due to women’s health issues. The Government recently blocked a proposal to make menopause a ‘protected characteristic’ under the Equality Act for fears such a move would discriminate against men.

How can women remain in work, excel, climb the ladder and thrive if they are not supported through ill-health related to periods, menopause and childbirth?

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Employers must commit to equal pay, equal opportunities, flexible work, saying no to discrimination and harassment, and offer paid leave for parents to create a culture where women can thrive, progress, and become leaders.

The antiquated saying, “Can women really have it all?” fuels a societal belief that to be a mother, you can’t have a successful career and be a good mother, or if you do, you must choose one or the other. It also insinuates that a woman is solely responsible for caring for the children.

Research shows that companies with female CEOs are more profitable. It

doesn’t take a genius to see that women are fundamental to the economy. With just nine female CEOs in the FTSE100, there’s a long way to go.

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By employing more women, improving women in leadership figures, and reaching more women in early careers, organisations will be on a trajectory to higher profits, adopt innovative ways of leading and boast a diverse workplace culture.

We want companies to step up, take ownership and work with us to reach an untapped pool of ambitious women.