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Introduction to Gender Inequality at Work

Within workplaces, research shows that women are underrepresented at every level, and women of colour are the most underrepresented group of all. It is concerning to observe that, even though the business community is well-versed on the benefits of a diverse workforce, little progress has been made towards addressing the gender gap.

One critical indicator of gender inequality at work is the gender pay gap. Across all regions in the world, women are paid less than men, with the gender pay gap estimated to be 23% globally. Of course, in some regions it is much greater.

The reason for this economic disadvantage, is the persistence of historical and structural unequal power relations between women and men.

Equal pay for men and women has been widely endorsed but applying it in practice has been difficult. Some countries have passed laws to make it illegal to pay men and women different amounts for the same work completed.

Apart from legal changes, organisations and communities can focus on cultural change to reduce gender inequality and the gender pay gap. Businesses should focus on hiring more women into senior level and C-Suite positions. To achieve change, it is necessary for organisations to be assertive about gender equality. For example, leaders’ bonuses should be linked to diversity and inclusion objectives.

Organisations should track their progress towards gender equality. For example, in some countries, businesses are required to publish their gender pay gap. Year on year comparisons as well as progress reporting throughout the year will facilitate companies in making progress.

To ensure progress on gender equality, an action plan should be put into place identifying inequalities and how the business is going to address these issues.

Firstly, it is important to understand what is causing your organisation’s gender pay gap. Questions to assess what is causing your gender pay gap:

1. Do people get ‘stuck’ at certain levels within your organisation? Analyse the proportion of women at different levels within the organisation by quartile to identify problems with equality throughout the hierarchy.

2. Is there a gender imbalance in your promotions? Look at the proportion of women from a given grade or role applying for promotions, making it through to any assessment stage or shortlist and then being selected. Is this proportion lower than you would expect given the proportion of women at that grade or in comparison to the number of men. Identify why there might be a disproportionate response.

3. Are women more likely to be recruited into lower paid roles in your organisation? Examine the recruitment routes and how transparent the process is. Understand the potential applicant pool in your field or industry and how this compares to the applicants you receive. Widen your applicant pool by re-thinking structural set-ups that can have a larger effect in preventing women from doing particular jobs. For example, allowing flexible working that can fit around caring responsibilities.

4. Do men and women leave your organisation at different rates? Examine the proportion of women leaving the organisation by seniority level to ensure the number of women leaving is proportionate to the number of women in that grade.

5. Do particular aspects of pay (such as starting salaries and bonuses) differ by gender? If you allow negotiation of starting salaries, then it is important to remember that research has found that women are less likely to negotiate their pay than men and that when women do negotiate their pay, they can be judged more harshly for doing so. Introduce clear and fair processes for setting salaries and be transparent about these processes.

6. Do men and women receive different performance scores on average? Performance scores can give you an indication of whether women and men are performing differently or being assessed differently. If there is a difference between performance scores, this can impact progression. Train managers to monitor whether equal opportunities, equal access to resources for development and equal professional support are being given to men and women.

7. Are you supporting part-time employees to progress? Ensuring that part-time employees are well supported and are given opportunities to progress means that well-qualified, experienced women are better able to keep participating in the workforce. Consider offering more senior positions on a part time or flexible basis, train managers to understand how roles can be done flexibly, and when advertising jobs, advertise them as flexible by default.

8. Are you supporting men and women to take on caring responsibilities? Being able to care for others should be a choice open to both men and women. Achieving this is a core part of achieving gender equality. Assess the uptake of flexible working, Shared Parental Leave and paternity leave by gender. If there is a low take up by men, consider awareness raising within the organisation to create a cultural change in attitude towards men using these policies.

Adopt a systematic approach. Consider every stage in the employee lifecycle from recruitment to exit interviews.

Identify evidence driven actions. Ensure actions are developed based on the diagnosis of your Gender Pay Gap and address specific underlying causes.

Ensure you gain buy-in from senior people. Role-modelling by senior leadership is vital for tackling your organisation’s Gender Pay Gap. It is also important to highlight case studies from other organisations both within your sector and other sectors to help secure overall support for your GPG action plan.

Involve a wide range of stakeholders. Staff, employee representative bodies and different levels of management will help deliver an action plan which is innovative, fit for purpose and well supported. Engaging with stakeholders through working groups, informal feedback sessions and surveys. The more staff you engage at the early stages of the process, the greater their buy-in going forward.

It’s important to allow plans evolve by monitoring and evaluating action plans.

Actions to ensure there is no gender pay gap within your organisation, should become a part of your ‘business as usual’ activity.


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