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Solat Chaudhry: Win the fight for gender equality and we will all be better off

What more can be done to tackle the gender pay cap?
What more can be done to tackle the gender pay cap?
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RECENT tweets from Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves, reacting to the report that there is still a 23.8 per cent mean gender pay gap for fixed hourly pay, made us at The National Centre for Diversity sit up.

We echo her view that the Prime Minster spoke about the gender pay gap as a ‘burning injustice’. And of closing the gap for good within a generation. It is now time for Government and business to deliver on that ambition.

Businesses should not be afraid to act. Equality of opportunity is about widening the pool of labour and skills, increasing flexibility to match staff and business needs, eliminating unjustified – and unlawful – discriminatory practices as well as employing a diverse workforce which reflects the wider community. A goal we should all strive for.

And those businesses that we work with, committed to genuine equality of opportunity, are seeing many benefits such as performance gains, increased employee satisfaction and retention, improved customer relations, innovative ideas and wider markets opening up.

There are numerous studies and research articles that demonstrate how important it is to tackle wider gender diversity issues. Back in 2012, a Credit Suisse research report highlighted that companies with one or more women on the board achieved above average growth, delivered higher than average returns on equity and enjoyed enhanced stability. Why, six years on, has gender equality not been fully tackled?

Accountancy firm Grant Thornton also found that companies with more women in top positions achieve 16 per cent higher return on sales and a 26 per cent better return on invested capital.

We know that businesses that work towards improving their diversity policies find they are out-performing their competitors.

Management consultants McKinsey reported companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 per cent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.

That is why we are proud of our diversity accreditations which reflect these findings and provide an industry-led best practice network for business leaders to tap into.

We are also proud of our record as a responsible trailblazer in this debate and encourage all of you in leadership positions, with a collective responsibility in the businesses you manage, to tackle this issue and ensure that discrimination – whether inherent or not – is stamped out.

Our credentials expand beyond just diversity though. The National Centre for Diversity has six principles: fairness, respect, equality, diversity, inclusion and engagement, affectionately known by the acronym ‘Fredie’.

‘Fredie’ gives organisations and individuals working with teams the tool kits to discuss responsibly the issues and signpost solutions.

As a starter, why not ensure you equip your teams with the tools to feel confident to commit to supporting your policies?

A good internal communications strategy can help you identify the stakeholders and prepare the right messaging with the added bonus of giving them the confidence to speak to each other about the issues.

Via our best practice networks, everyone can hear – and share – how to achieve success through well-designed diversity policies and targets.

There is great potential to partner with other organisations to achieve your ambitions and change the 
environment.

If you are looking for SMART objectives and key Performance Indicators (KPIs), why not create champions in your organisations who can play a pivotal role in helping you change the cultural dynamics, collect ideas facilitate best practice and be an internal ‘diversity sounding board’?

More importantly they will able to take responsibility for being pro-active, share their knowledge, prepare a narrative for the board and help create the business case. It’s also an opportunity for companies to future-proof policies by shaping the story and language and sharing insights.

It is imperative that we heed the words of MPs like Rachel Reeves and stem any complacency. Strengthening transparency on gender pay will help to reinforce the business, moral and societal case for industry, and hopefully accelerate culture change.