8 March 2017 | Safron Huntly
Happy International Women's Day 2017. You might have thought that by now certain debates would be long put to bed such as, gender equality, the glass ceiling and flexible working for mothers.
After all, are we still not agreed that all human beings - man, woman, black, white and every other gender and shade in between are equal and deserving of the same rights and respect?
Agreed or not, we are a long way from worldwide equality in the workplace. According to the latest Grant Thornton report, women held only 24 per cent of senior roles in 2016. We are surprisingly even further from equality in the UK with 21 per cent of senior positions filled by women last year and 36 per cent of businesses employing no women in senior positions.
Sadly, these statistics don't come as much of a shock, as in my seven years of recruitment I have had both men and women clients tell me they won't employ certain female candidates as they are of baby-bearing age.
But it's not all doom and gloom: on the flip side an increasing number of clients are asking me for women-only shortlists in efforts to address their company's inequalities and restore the balance. Stay-at-home mothers have been reported to be at a record low, as the number of house shusbands doubles. This suggests that the women in these households are the primary breadwinners.
Since the 1970s, new legislation has periodically been introduced that may have affected the employment rate for women.
- 1970: Equal Pay Act - this prohibited any less favourable treatment between men and women in terms of pay
- 1975: Sex Discrimination Act - promoted equality and opportunity between men and women
- 1975: Employment Protection Act - made it illegal to sack a woman because of pregnancy and introduced statutory maternity provision
- 2008: Lone parent income support changes - conditions of eligibility for lone parent income support were changed
- 2010: Increase in state pension age for women - women having to retire later than previous years
So, employment for women overall is on the rise in the UK - good. But according to the Office for National Statistics, in April 2016 the gender pay gap (for median earnings) for full-time employees was still 9.4 per cent, a mere 0.2 per cent improvement from 2015 - bad! You can read the full report here.
This means, in the space of 10 years, a man will have earned an extra £26,000 - almost the equivalent to the current average UK salary.
Just take a moment to digest the fact that we are still a very long way from equal pay yet it was put on the statute books in 1970 - 47 years ago! It is clear, then, that a principle being enshrined in law is not enough. So what will it take?
Getting informed is the first thing I urge all men and women at every level to do! I am proud to work for a company that has total gender equality. I know from my clients this is a rare thing, but if we can do it why can't you, or your employer? Do you know your employer's gender equality policy? If not, why not? Is it because they don't have one or because it isn't acted upon?
I am not advocating throwing yourself under a racehorse or chaining yourself to railings, but remember what the suffragettes achieved. Perhaps you can pen an email to your HR department or bring it up at your next meeting? If nothing is being done, ask to be part of the change. Create a committee or focus group - MAKE SOME NOISE. It is only then that change happens and we won't have to explain to our daughters why they are getting paid less than their brothers in the future.
Safron Huntly is a senior consultant at recruitment firm Talent FM