Monday, 8 March marks International Women’s Day, a day honouring the contributions and achievements of women around the world, and an opportunity to shine a spotlight on the gender inequality that still exists today.
One area where gender inequality unfortunately still prevails is in the workplace. While recent data  reveals positive signs that the gender pay gap is shrinking in Australia and New Zealand, more must be done to challenge all aspects of gender inequality in the workplace.
The ‘pink’ recession
Unfortunately, the pandemic had a significantly gendered impact. It adversely impacted women more than men, hence its branding in certain countries as the ‘pink recession’. Global consulting firm, McKinsey, estimated that women’s jobs were 1.8 times more vulnerable during this crisis than men’s. Further, with schools and childcare facilities closing during the crisis, many mothers were forced to pick up the slack when it came to childcare duties and homeschooling.
Choosing to challenge in the workplace post COVID-19
Fortunately, there are signs of positive change, even if some of these changes are mandatory rather than voluntary. For example, in Australia, all non-public sector employers with 100 or more employees in their corporate structure are required to report annually to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA). This reporting covers not just information on workforce compensation and pay but also an employer’s policies around flexible working, paid parental leave and sex-based harassment and discrimination. A similar requirement is being debated in New Zealand.
1. Ensure equal access to L&D opportunities
While inequality in terms of access to learning & development opportunities might not be limited to gender – as there can be L&D discrepancies between departments and seniority levels – it is imperative that organisations offer men and women the same level of L&D opportunities, regardless of what jobs they perform. While the types of L&D opportunities may vary according to different roles performed – for example, it wouldn’t make sense to send someone from HR on a coding course simply because a developer is enrolled in one – employers must make sure that the same levels of job-specific training are on offer, regardless of how technical the role is.
By providing equal access to L&D opportunities for both genders, the chance of one gender being more qualified due to having a training advantage over the other gender is reduced.
2. Ensure hiring procedures are free from bias and promote diversity
Despite the best attempts to avoid it, implicit (and sometimes explicit) bias exists in every organisation. Unconscious bias is an inherently human habit, but one that must be monitored and challenged – particularly when it creeps into things like recruitment processes and remuneration decisions.
Read our blog on how to reduce unconscious bias in your recruitment processes.
Having an at-a-glance overview of your existing workforce and employee remuneration will help to break down the real numbers on key areas like diversity and pay parity – providing insights into whether unconscious bias has already had an impact on these issues.
3. Build an inclusive work culture
There is no silver bullet for building an inclusive work culture. Doing so takes time and a dedicated organisational mindset to instill D&I into the fabric of an organisation. First and foremost, companies must have diverse leadership teams. Not only does this enable a diverse set of perspectives at the top-level; it also demonstrates to employees that diversity is valued at all levels of the organisation.
Other factors to consider when building an inclusive work culture are investing in diversity and inclusion training, using inclusive language in everything you do and taking a zero-tolerance approach towards bullying and harassment.
As this year’s International Women’s Day theme reinforces, choosing to challenge and being able to do so without fear of negative repercussions is something that shouldn’t fall to any one group. Everyone should have the opportunity to speak out and make suggestions on how to create more inclusive workplaces. Building an inclusive work culture is everyone’s responsibility.
4. Make mentors available to everyone
Mentor programs are an effective way of building a pipeline of female leadership talent. Through access to a trusted advisor, female employees can seek advice on issues concerning their progression, personal development and on thorny topics such as how to ask for a pay rise.
Read our blog on ‘How to create a successful mentor program’.
5. Ensure both maternity and paternity leave is offered
More gender equality at home can lead to more gender equality at work. Since women tend to be the primary caregivers, it is predominantly they who bear the responsibility for childcare. This is perpetuated by the fact that many organisations do not offer significant paternity leave – the result being that women are at risk of falling behind their male counterparts in their careers.
The World Economic Forum’s 2020 Global Gender Gap Report noted that Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and Finland are in the lead for closing the gender pay gap and all have generous parental leave policies. New Zealand fared well, ranking amongst the top 10, while Australia trailed far behind, ranking in 44th place globally.
Gender equality in the A/NZ workforce has made several large strides over the years. But there remains much more to be done. As we all recover from COVID-19, organisations should take the opportunity to revisit their diversity & inclusion strategies and refocus on their core values.
Finally, it’s important to remember that this is an ongoing process, and not all issues can be rectified immediately. But taking steps to address inequality in your workplace will help place you ahead of the competition and to retain your best employees.
Let’s all ‘choose to challenge’ not just on International Women’s Day but every day.
ELMO can help HR professionals manage their workforce, even while operating remotely. As a cloud-based solution, ELMO helps employers manage their teams from anywhere at any time from a secure, centralised location. All employee-employer touchpoints are covered by ELMO’s suite, from ‘hire to retire’. For example, ELMO Recruitment helps to streamline the hiring process – from job requisitions through to screening – without jeopardising the quality of new hires. For further information on any ELMO solution, please contact us.
 ABC news, “Gender pay gap shrinks during COVID recovery as low-paid men regain employment”, February 2021
 McKinsey, COVID-19 and gender equality: Countering the regressive effects, July 2020
 NZ Herald, “Companies should be forced to report on gender pay gap – union”, September 2020